The Senate wrapped up work Thursday on three top military nominations as lawmakers look to work around the holds put in place by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) on hundreds of promotions for officers.
Senators confirmed Gen. Eric Smith to become the next commandant of the Marine Corps Thursday afternoon in a 96-0 vote. That followed a pair of votes to officially confirm Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. Randy George to become chief of staff for the Army.
The trio were among the more than 300 nominations that were in limbo. Tuberville has maintained his hold due to the Pentagon’s abortion policy that covers travel expenses for service members to seek abortion care.
Schumer moved on the three votes after the Alabama Republican said that he would force a vote on Smith’s nomination via a seldom-used tool that allows members to do so with the signatures of 16 other senators.
“Due to the extraordinary circumstances of Senator Tuberville’s reckless decisions, Democrats will take action,” Schumer said on the floor Wednesday. “It’s not the path the vast majority of senators on either side of the aisle want to go down, but Senator Tuberville is forcing us to confront his obstruction head-on.”
“I want to make clear to my Republican colleagues, this cannot continue,” Schumer said. “We cannot continue down this path. It threatens the ability of the Senate and the leadership of both sides to work together to get things done for the American people, and it threatens the nonpolitical nature of our military service members.”
Tuberville maintained Wednesday that not only is his hold still intact, but that he may use the floor maneuver again to overcome his own hold on other military nominees. He also declared victory and has shown little willingness to hold talks on a compromise.
“To be clear, my hold is still in place,” Tuberville said on the floor. “I reserve the right to seek another cloture position on the nominees in the future, so that’s where we stand today.”
“This is not about me. This is about the Senate and the Constitution,” Tuberville said. “This is a win today for the legislative branch of government. Voting gives all senators a voice for their constituents.”
Democrats believe that ending Tuberville’s hold is the responsibility of top Republicans. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) has made it known he disagrees with the ex-college football coach’s push, but leaders have been stymied at every turn as they look to end the blockade.
Brown will replace outgoing Joint Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley when his term ends Oct. 1. The Army chief of staff post has been absent of a Senate-confirmed official since early August. George takes over for the retired Gen. James McConville.
Finally, Gen. David Berger left his post as Marine Corps commandant July 10, leaving a Senate-confirmed vacancy for more than two months.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin continued to pan Tuberville for his months-long hold in a statement released Wednesday following Brown’s confirmation.
“Senator Tuberville’s continued hold on hundreds of our nation’s military leaders endangers our national security and military readiness. It is well past time to confirm the over 300 other military nominees,” Austin said.
“The brave men and women of the U.S. military deserve to be led by highly-qualified general and flag officers at this critical moment for our national security. And their families, who also sacrifice so much every day on our behalf, deserve certainty and our nation’s unwavering support.”