Senate confirms two critical military officers, despite Tommy Tuberville's abortion protest

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday confirmed two additional military nominees, despite Sen. Tommy Tuberville's, R-Ala., block of hundreds of military nominations in protest of a Pentagon policy that pays troops for travel to obtain abortions.

The Senate confirmed Gen. Eric Smith to the Commandant of the Marine Corps with a vote of 96-0, as well as Gen. Randy George to serve as the the Army Chief of Staff by nearly a unanimous vote. Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, was the lone senator who voted against George's nomination.

The two confirmations mark the second and third military nominees the upper chamber has advanced this week after Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., called for individual votes on three nominees Wednesday. The Senate previously approved the nomination of Gen. C.Q. Brown to serve as chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, a position currently held by Army Gen. Mark Milley who is required by law to retire at the end of the month.

Military promotions are typically approved without controversy.

But Tuberville has held up around 300 promotions for senior military jobs since February in protest of the Pentagon's abortion policy.

More: Senate confirms top military officer, bypassing Tommy Tuberville's abortion protest

“These men should have already been confirmed. They should already be serving in their new positions,” Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday. “The Senate should not have to go through procedural hoops just to please one brazen and misguided senator.”

Some Republicans have called on Schumer to schedule individual votes on officers. Voting on each officer individual would take the Senate more than three months of full-day sessions, according to the Congressional Research Service.

Tuberville said on the Senate floor Wednesday he has no plans on withdrawing his holds until the Pentagon reverses its policy.

"It's about time. I've called for individual votes on these nominees for almost six months," the Alabama lawmaker said Wednesday. "Instead of voting, Democrats have spent months complaining about having to vote."

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., talks with reporters as he walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) ORG XMIT: DCMA106
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., talks with reporters as he walks to a vote on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023 in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein) ORG XMIT: DCMA106

Hundreds of officers affected by Tuberville block

Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chair of the Armed Services Committee, blasted Tuberville for the holds, which prevent the promotion of more than 300 officers. If Tuberville’s blockade continues, about 600 officers will be affected.

“We still have a lot more work to do to try and undo the damage Senator Tuberville is inflicting on military readiness and national security,” Reed said in a statement Wednesday. “We need Senate Republicans to stop hiding from their duty to hold their colleague accountable.”

Last week, USA TODAY polled Tuberville’s GOP colleagues and found most of them indifferent or mildly supportive of Tuberville’s hold. Several laid blame for the impasse on Schumer for not scheduling individual votes on the officers.

Meanwhile, below the level of the service chiefs and chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the promotions of hundreds of officers remain in doubt due to Tuberville’s blockade.

Tuberville’s hold has prevented officers from taking command at U.S. Cyber Command, U.S. Indo-Pacific Command, commanders for the Navy’s fleets in the Pacific and the Persian Gulf.

Sept. 14, 2023; Washington, D.C., USA; Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) listens during the Senate Armed Services hearing to examine the nomination of Admiral Lisa Franchetti, United States Navy, for reappointment to the grade of admiral and to be Chief of Naval Operations, Department of Defense. on Sept. 14, 2023 in Washington, D.C.. Mandatory Credit: Jack Gruber-USA TODAY ORG XMIT: USAT-Franchetti ORIG FILE ID: 20230914_ajw_usa_016.JPG

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Despite Tuberville abortion protest, Senate confirms military picks