Sep 20, 2023 - Politics & Policy

Senate confirms top military officer amid Tuberville blockade

Sen. Tommy Tuberville. Photo: Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images.

The Senate on Wednesday voted to confirm Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing retiring Gen. Mark Milley as the nation's top military officer.

Why it matters: The votes come after months of Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) blocking speedy confirmation of hundreds of military nominations and promotions in protest of the Pentagon's abortion travel policy.

Driving the news: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced plans to move the nominations forward on Wednesday, as Tuberville said he wouldn't stand in the way of holding those votes.

  • The Senate voted 83-10 to confirm Brown as Joint Chiefs chairman, and teed up another vote to confirm Gen. Randy George as Army chief of staff.
  • The military has been forced to operate without Senate-confirmed commandants at the top of three services — the Army, Marines and Navy — for the first time in history.

Yes, but: This doesn't mark the end of Tuberville's blockade. Schumer opted to spend floor time holding votes on these key posts, but he is not likely to do so for the more than 300 nominees Tuberville is blocking.

  • Most of these appointments are confirmed by what's called "unanimous consent," which allows the Senate to instantly pass uncontroversial measures as long as no senator objects.
  • But Tuberville has been putting holds on these nominations for more than half a year in protest of the Pentagon's policy of reimbursing service members for out-of-state abortion expenses.
  • Asked whether he plans to maintain his hold on other military nominees, Tuberville told Axios: "Oh yeah."

The backdrop: Tuberville told fellow Senate Republicans at their weekly lunch on Tuesday that he would force a vote on Gen. Eric Smith, the nominee for commandant of the Marine Corps.

  • His blockade has spurred bipartisan frustration, with many senators reluctant to set a precedent of holding floor votes on nominations that are historically routine.
  • "We cannot physically do it," Senate Majority Whip Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) said of holding votes on the stalled nominations. It would take "100 days of floor activity ... So it's not practical," he said.

Go deeper: Democratic senator expects "frustrated" GOP to stop Tuberville blockade

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