The Senate voted on Thursday to confirm Gen. Randy George to be chief of staff of the Army and Gen. Eric Smith to be commandant of the Marine Corps – key votes that follow a monthslong hold of more than 300 military promotions by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.
The trio of high-profile confirmations comes as tensions have continued to rise over Tuberville’s tactic – a protest by the Alabama senator over the Pentagon’s abortion policy. He has vowed to continue his hold as long as the policy remains in place.
On Wednesday, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer assailed the Alabama Republican’s tactics in a fiery speech as Tuberville had threatened to file a motion himself on the Senate floor, something traditionally only afforded to the Senate majority leader.
“Sen. Tuberville is forcing us to confront his obstruction head on,” Schumer said on Wednesday.
Schumer moved to have the 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.
The votes 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.
“We cannot continue down this path,” Schumer said on Wednesday. “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 non-political nature of our military service members.”
“If everyone objected to everything to get leverage for their pet priorities, it will grind this body to a halt,” Schumer said.
Tuberville’s hold cannot ultimately stop Pentagon nominees from being approved, but moving through dozens of military promotions, which are typically so uncontroversial that they can be approved with a simple agreement, would take months. It would consume the Senate floor and paralyze the body from being able to take up almost any other action, aides say.
This story and headline have been updated with additional developments.