New Jersey Democrats Roll a Rare Split on Mattis Vote

New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, the ranking Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, voted against giving retired Gen. James Mattis a waiver allowing him to serve as Defense secretary.

New Jersey Congressman Frank Pallone, the ranking Democrat on the powerful Energy and Commerce Committee, voted against giving retired Gen. James Mattis a waiver allowing him to serve as Defense secretary. Max Pizarro for Observer

Friday’s vote in both houses of Congress granted a waiver to allow retired Gen. James Mattis to serve as Defense secretary, assuming he’s confirmed by the Senate. Mattis, who retired in 2013, needed the waiver because of a law that requires Defense secretaries to be out of uniform for at least seven years, to preserve civilian control of the military.

The measure passed the House 268-151, with 36 Democrats voting in favor and one Republican opposed. It passed the Senate a day earlier, 81-17.

But within that mundane procedural vote is a strange little New Jersey anomaly.

The Democrats in New Jersey’s congressional delegation Democratic split almost right down the middle on the Mattis waiver vote: Voting Yes on the waiver were Sen. Menendez, and Reps. Norcross, Gottheimer, Pascrell and Sires; No votes were Sen. Booker and Reps. Pallone, Payne and Watson Coleman.

A 5-4 split among New Jersey Democrats in Congress is very unusual. (All GOP voted Yes.)

By way of comparison, New York has 20 Democrats in the House. 18 voted no on waiver, two (Suozzi and Maloney) voted yes; in the Senate, Schumer was yes, and Gillibrand no. Pennsylvania has five Democrats in the House and 4 voted no on waiver; Their Democratic Senator (Casey) voted yes. In Connecticut, all Democrats voted no—five Reps and both Senators.

New Jersey Democrats Roll a Rare Split on Mattis Vote