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

WASHINGTON – The Senate confirmed one military nominee to a new post on Wednesday and is set to approve two more, maneuvering around a monthslong hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., in protest over a Department of Defense policy.

Military promotions for decades have been approved at large without controversy. But Tuberville has held up about 300 promotions for senior military jobs since February in protest of a Pentagon policy that includes some paid leave and other expenses for service members traveling to have an abortion.

In remarks on the Senate floor Wednesday, Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., criticized Tuberville's blockade and said he would seek to advance the nominations of the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. C.Q. Brown; the commandant of the Marine Corps, Gen. Eric Smith, and the Army chief of staff, Gen. Randy George.

The Senate confirmed Brown on Wednesday evening. The upper chamber is also expected to confirm George and Smith this week.

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

"Sen. Tuberville’s obstruction is pushing the Senate down this road and where it goes from here will depend on all of us," Schumer also said Wednesday.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin congratulated Brown on his confirmation as the nation’s highest-ranking officer and criticized Tuberville for holding up promotions for hundreds of others.

“Senator Tuberville’s continued hold on hundreds of our nation's military leaders endangers our national security and military readiness,” Austin said in a statement. “It is well past time to confirm the over 300 other military nominees.”

Tuberville and some of his Republican colleagues have said Schumer could schedule individual votes on officers. Democrats have rejected that as unwieldy, and a Congressional Research Service report showed that voting on each officer would require the Senate’s sole attention for a month.

Tuberville said in remarks on Wednesday that his hold will remain in place as long as the Pentagon's abortion policy stands.

"Let’s do one at a time or change the policy back,” Tuberville said. "Let’s vote on it.”

Democrats have put holds on promotions in the past, too. Notably Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., prevented votes in 2019 for two weeks over her concern that then-President Donald Trump had retaliated against an officer who had testified in his first impeachment hearing.

This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Senate confirms top military officer despite Tuberville abortion block