After an eight-month delay, US Senate confirms major military nominees

Following an eight-month delay caused by a Republican's objections to the Pentagon's abortion policy, the US Senate has filled three senior military vacancies.

The Senate typically confirms senior promotions in large groupings, but Senator Tommy Tuberville has held up over 300 nominees.

The one-man blockade prompted the Senate to consider three critical positions individually. Mr. Tuberville declared victory, observing that such a choice had been available for some time.

Wednesday, Senate Democratic Leader Chuck Schumer moved to confirm General Charles Brown as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the country's highest-ranking uniformed officer.

General Brown succeeds General Mark Milley, who is retiring at the end of the month. The Senate approved his nomination by a vote of 83 to 11, with Mr. Tuberville and a sprinkling of fellow Republicans voting no according to sources. 

Mr. Schumer additionally moved to process the nominations of General Randy George as Army chief of staff and General Eric Smith as Marine Corps commandant. Both served in an interim capacity.

On Thursday, the chamber unequivocally approved General George's nomination and rejected General Smith's nomination by a single vote.

Mr. Schumer of New York stated on the Senate floor, "We cannot allow Senator Tuberville to determine which of our dedicated and courageous service members are promoted and which are left to languish."

Typically, the upper branch of Congress expedites and confirms military nominations all at once with broad bipartisan support through a procedure known as unanimous consent.

A single senator can prevent this, and an Alabama lawmaker has done so since February in opposition to an abortion policy of the US Department of Defense.

The policy, which was enacted late last year, allows service members and their dependents to obtain abortions across state lines by providing leave and travel stipends. This, according to Mr. Tuberville, violates a prohibition on taxpayer-funded abortions.

The Biden administration has stated that it is a crucial healthcare benefit for women who reside in states that have restricted abortion access since the Supreme Court revoked a constitutional right to terminations of pregnancy held by American women for half a century last year.

Members of both parties have criticised Mr. Tuberville's actions, but he has refused to back down until the Pentagon reverses course or Congress votes on the policy. Neither has the Pentagon demonstrated any sign of retreat.

As a consequence, for the first time in history, all three branches of the U.S. military have been simultaneously operating without Senate-confirmed leaders, which critics argue threatens national security.

By the end of the year, the number of nominees caught up in the stalemate could double.

Before the vote, Mr. Tuberville took a victory lap in the chamber and argued that the Democrats had capitulated by adopting a measure that was always available to them.

"The time has come," he said. "I've been requesting individual ballots on these nominees for nearly six months. Chuck Schumer refused repeatedly and repeatedly."

Although Mr. Schumer could conceivably confirm nominees individually. The nonpartisan Congressional Research Service (CRS) estimates that doing so would consume nearly 700 hours of Senate floor time.