The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm the nomination of Gen. C.Q. Brown to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, following a monthslong hold of over more than 300 military promotions by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer moved earlier in the day to have three key military promotions – the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Marine Corps commandant, and the Army chief of staff – voted on separately rather than as part of a bloc of holds by Tuberville. Following Brown’s confirmation, the Senate will take votes Thursday to confirm the new Army chief of staff and the new Marine Corps commandant.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin celebrated Brown’s confirmation, saying in a statement Wednesday evening that Brown will be a “tremendous leader of our joint force.” But Austin also slammed Tuberville’s blockade on other military nominations.
“Senator Tuberville’s continued hold on hundreds of our nation’s military leaders endangers our national security and military readiness,” 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.”
Earlier Wednesday, Schumer assailed the Alabama Republican’s tactics in a fiery speech on the Senate floor as Tuberville had threatened to file a motion himself on the Senate floor, something traditionally only afforded to the Senate majority leader.
The votes to finally confirm a handful of nominations this week follow months of intransigence by the Alabama senator, with members of his own party unable to move Tuberville from his position because of his opposition to a Defense Department policy reimbursing travel costs for service members who must go across state lines to seek an abortion.
In floor remarks Wednesday, Schumer said the Senate will confront “his obstruction head on,” but was forced to change direction in demanding the promotions be voted on as Tuberville’s holds stretched into months, and key military positions remained vacant.
Tuberville has refused to drop his holds, insisting instead that Schumer set up individual votes on each nominee. Until Wednesday, Schumer has resisted, saying that all nominees should have been considered and confirmed “in a bipartisan way.”
“It’s not the path the vast majority of senators on either side of the aisle want to go down, but Sen. Tuberville is forcing us to confront his obstruction head on,” Schumer said.
Schumer warned that having to give in to Tuberville’s demands for votes could set a precedent where senators can use widely supported nominees as leverage for their top issues.
“The Senate runs on unanimous consent, and we depend on each other to ensure this institution functions smoothly,” Schumer said. “That’s how we make things happen around here. If everyone objected to everything, to get leverage for their pet priorities, it will grind this body to a halt.”
Senate Democrats demurred when asked if it was a mistake for Schumer to not insist that the promotions be voted on in a group, with Virginia Sen. Tim Kaine saying that “there are more steps to be done, but we’re finally (breaking) this unjust blockade” and that he believes the tide will turn against the holds, even though he believes there are still more individual votes to come.
“We’re going to move and keep the pressure on. VFW has come out and told the GOP to knock it off. VoteVets has come out, told him to knock it o