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Defense Secretary nominee Lloyd Austin. Photo: Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images

Both chambers of Congress on Thursday voted to grant retired Gen. Lloyd Austin a waiver to lead the Pentagon, clearing the path to confirmation for President Biden's nominee for defense secretary.

Why it matters: Austin's nomination received pushback from some lawmakers, including Democrats, who cited a law that requires officers be out of the military for at least seven years before taking the job — a statute intended to reinforce the tradition of civilian control of the Pentagon.

Context: Austin's confirmation would make Biden's administration the second in a row to abandon the tradition, after Gen. James Mattis received the same waiver in 2017 to serve as former President Trump's first defense secretary.

  • At his confirmation hearing Wednesday, Austin said he would "uphold the principle of civilian control of the military," stressing that he knows being a Cabinet secretary "requires a different perspective and unique duties from a career in uniform."

The state of play: The House vote approving the waiver came to 326-78, and the Senate vote tally was at 69-27.

  • The Senate Armed Services Committee approved Austin's waiver by voice vote earlier Thursday. Chairman Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who previously said he would not agree to another waiver after Mattis' confirmation, cited "historic circumstances" in explaining his reversal.
  • "I backed the waiver for General Mattis in large part because of Donald Trump’s inexperience and temperament and had no intention of supporting another waiver so soon," Reed said. "That rationale seems almost quaint now considering the seismic forces we are currently facing."

The big picture: Austin would be the first Black person to lead the Pentagon. He was the first Black general to command a theater of war in Iraq, first to serve as the commander of U.S. Central Command, and first to hold the title of vice chief of staff of the U.S. Army.

  • Austin's confirmation would help Biden fulfill his pledge to assemble the most diverse Cabinet in U.S. history. Biden has placed an early emphasis on combatting racial inequality, white supremacy and domestic extremism.
  • Austin told lawmakers Wednesday he will rid the military of "racists and extremists."

What to watch via AP: Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) said the confirmation vote for Austin will take place Friday.

Go deeper: The full slate of Biden's cabinet secretaries

Go deeper

Hispanic congressmen push for purge of Confederate renaming panel

U.S. Rep. Joaquin Castro wears a face mask during a House Committee on Foreign Affairs on Capitol Hill on September 16, 2020. PHOTO: Kevin Dietsch-Pool/Getty Images

Two Hispanic congressmen, Reps. Joaquin Castro and Ruben Gallego, are asking Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to remove Trump loyalists from a panel charged with renaming 10 Army bases that honor Confederate leaders.

Why it matters: The request, outlined in a letter Friday written by Castro and Gallego, comes as the Biden administration purges remaining Trump-era appointees and as Hispanic and Black leaders demand that some Army bases be renamed after people of color.

The Mischief Makers

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Several Republican and Democratic lawmakers are emerging as troublemakers within their parties and political thorns for their leadership.

Why it matters: We're calling this group "The Mischief Makers" — members who threaten to upend party unity — the theme eclipsing Washington at the moment — and potentially jeopardize the Democrats' or Republicans' position heading into the 2022 midterms.

Ina Fried, author of Login
44 mins ago - Technology

Epic's long game against Apple

Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Epic's Apple lawsuit is costing the company dearly, but the game developer has its eye on a valuable long-term goal: prying tomorrow's virtual worlds loose from the grip of app store proprietors like Apple.

Between the lines: Epic isn't spending a fortune in legal fees and foregoing a ton of revenue just to shave some costs off in-app purchases on today's phones. Rather, it's planning for a future of creating virtual universes via augmented and virtual reality — without having to send a big chunk of their economies to Apple or Google.