President-elect Donald Trump’s pick to lead the Department of Defense said Tuesday that he was “grateful” to be nominated as House Republicans introduced a must-pass spending bill that included language designed to expedite his confirmation.


Retired Marine Gen. James “Mad Dog” Mattis briefly joined Trump on stage at the president-elect’s “Thank You” rally in Fayetteville, N.C.


“I’m grateful for the opportunity to return to our troops, their families, the civilians at the Department of Defense,” Mattis said in brief remarks. “I know how committed they are and devoted they are to the defense of our country [and] the defense of our Constitution. And with our allies strengthened and with our country strengthened, I look forward to being the civilian leader, so long as Congress gives me the waiver and the Senate votes to consent.”


“You’re going to get that waiver,” Trump said as Mattis left the microphone. “If you don’t get that waiver, there are going to be a lot of angry people.”


Mattis retired from the military in 2013. However, since federal law requires the secretary of defense to be off active duty for at least seven years, Congress would have to approve a waiver allowing Mattis to lead the Pentagon.


Shortly before Trump took the stage, House Republicans included a proposal to expedite the waiver in legislation to keep the government funded into next spring.

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