Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-FL) called on House Armed Services Committee (HASC) Chairman Mike Rogers (R-AL) to bring in Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks over the Pentagon’s failure to communicate Austin’s hospitalization to President Joe Biden and a number of other top national security officials.
“The Secretary of Defense serves as the linchpin through which the President commands and controls our armed forces. The DoD’s failure to inform the White House, Congress, and the American People of Secretary Austin’s incapacitation reflects the lack of leadership, competency, and transparency throughout the entire Biden administration,” Gaetz said in a statement.
Gaetz noted White House remarks signaling that Austin would face no consequences for his lack of disclosure.
Indeed, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday that Biden continues to have “complete confidence” in Austin.
Congressman Gaetz said:
Therefore, Chairman Mike Rogers and the House Armed Services Committee should immediately hold a hearing and receive testimony from Secretary Lloyd Austin and Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks regarding Austin’s absence and Hicks’ failure to return from vacation to perform her duties.
Rogers and HASC Ranking Member Adam Smith (D-WA) put out a joint statement over the weekend demanding information.
Their joint statement said:
Several questions remain unanswered including what the medical procedure and resulting complications were, what the Secretary’s current health status is, how and when the delegation of the Secretary’s responsibilities were made, and the reason for the delay in notification to the President and Congress.
“Transparency is vitally important. Sec. Austin must provide these additional details on his health and the decision-making process that occurred in the past week as soon as possible,” they added.
Rep. Cory Mills (R-FL) has also called for an investigation into Austin, while Rep. Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Republican conference chair, has called on Austin to resign.
Two members of the Congressional Black Caucus defended Austin, however.
Rep. James Clyburne (D-SC) told CNN on Sunday, “So, I don’t know all the particulars, I do know Lloyd Austin. He is a stand up guy. He’s a great defense secretary. He has been a tremendous military man in this country. And I’m told he is in charge of things as he was before the illness.”
And Rep. Sheila Jackson Lee (D-TX) blamed “partisan politics.”
“General Austin doesn’t deserve this unnecessary scrutiny and criticism while he is addressing his medical issues,” she added. “Remember, he is a combat veteran and has every right to have good health care and to have good health. Let’s let him and his family handle this.”