First Dem Lawmaker Calls For Lloyd Austin’s Resignation

Secretary of Defense Lloyd J. Austin III meets with Israeli Minister of Defense Yoav Gallant in Tel Aviv, Israel, to discuss regional security, opportunities to expand military cooperation, and escalating violence in the West Bank, March 9, 2023. (DoD photo by U.S. Navy Petty Officer 2nd Class Alexander Kubitza)

Democratic Pennsylvania Rep. Chris Deluzio called for Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to resign on Wednesday after news emerged the defense secretary concealed his hospitalization, a prior surgery and cancer diagnosis for weeks.

Deluzio, who sits on the House Armed Services Committee, is the first Democrat to openly call for Austin’s ouster, although top Democrats have raised concerns about the lack of transparency and its implications for national security. Austin failed to tell Congress of his Jan. 1 hospitalization following complications from a Dec. 22 elective procedure and placement in the Intensive Care Unit (ICU) until the afternoon of Jan. 5, but at the time had not disclosed the reason for his hospitalization or the nature of the initial procedure.

“I have lost trust in Secretary Lloyd Austin’s leadership of the Defense Department due to the lack of transparency about his recent medical treatment and its impact on the continuity of the chain of command,” Deluzio said in the statement. He said he hoped Austin would have a quick recovery and thanked the secretary for his years of service.

“I have a solemn duty in Congress to conduct oversight of the Defense Department through my service on the House Armed Services Committee. That duty today requires me to call on Secretary Austin to resign,” Deluzio said.

Austin was transferred to Walter Reed National Military Medical Center in an ambulance on Jan. 1 and moved to the Intensive Care Unit on Jan. 2 to address severe pain stemming from an elective surgery he underwent on Dec. 22 to treat prostate cancer. Congress did not learn of Austin’s hospitalization until late on Jan. 5, one day after the president, the deputy secretary of defense and top national security officials were notified.

GOP Rep. Matt Rosendale of Montana introduced articles of impeachment against Austin on Tuesday afternoon. Other notable Republicans, including Sen. Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Sen. J.D. Vance of Ohio and House GOP Conference Chair Elise Stefanik of New York, have called for Austin to step down.

Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Rep. Mike Rogers of Alabama, have not explicitly called for him to step down.

Democratic Rep. Adam Smith of Washington, ranking member on the House Armed Services Committee, issued a joint statement with the Republican leader on Sunday calling for accountability.

“While we wish Sec. Austin a speedy recovery, we are concerned with how the disclosure of the Secretary’s condition was handled,” the pair wrote. “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.”

Austin on Saturday acknowledged that he could have been more forthcoming with his hospitalization, but at that point apparently did not disclose his original cancer diagnosis in early December leading to the surgery to treat the cancer and later re-hospitalization.

Micaela Burrow on January 10, 2024

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