The Senate on Thursday confirmed Gen. Randy George to officially become Army chief of staff, filling a Senate-confirmed vacancy that has been open due to Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) hold on more than 300 military promotions.
Senators confirmed George by a 96-1 vote. Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) was the lone senator to vote against him.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) announced Wednesday that he would tee up votes on a trio of military nominations amid Tuberville’s hold, which has lasted for more than six months.
The Senate confirmed Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs on Wednesday night. Brown will replace outgoing Chairman Mark Milley, whose term expires Oct. 1.
The upper chamber is also set to confirm Gen. Eric Smith later Thursday to become the next commandant of the Marine Corps.
Tuberville put the hold in place in March to protest the Pentagon’s new policy that allows the department to cover travel expenses for service members who seek abortion care.
Military officials and Senate Democrats have attacked Tuberville in recent months, arguing that his hold is harming readiness of U.S. forces and creating instability within military families.
But Schumer’s announcement Wednesday came as a surprise. He and other Democrats repeatedly declined to consider top military openings for individual votes over fears that it would create a bad precedent. Many of the more than 300 promotions are usually passed en bloc via unanimous consent, and Democrats maintain that they will not move to confirm them one by one.
“Taking these promotions one at a time would cost over 100 days on the Senate calendar,” Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters Wednesday prior to Schumer’s announcement. “This is not a solution to his challenge. It really is going to drag this out at the expense of everything else that needs to be done in the Senate.”
Senate Democrats have also repeatedly laid the blame for the lack of resolution at the feet of their Republican colleagues, arguing it is their responsibility to find an offramp to end the holds.
But Tuberville on Wednesday had threatened to use a procedural maneuver to force votes on Smith while leaving his hold in place.
“Simply put, besides the most extreme elements of the Republican Party, no one thinks this is a good idea, and in the face of that opposition, it seems that Sen. Tuberville is becoming more and more desperate to get out of the box he put himself in,” Schumer said on the floor on Wednesday, referring to Tuberville’s vote threat. “The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the senior senator from Alabama.”
“The Senate should not have to go through procedural hoops just to please one brazen and misguided senator, but this is where we are,” Schumer said.
George has been serving in an acting capacity since early August, when the term of Gen. James McConville ended. The Marine Corps and Navy have also been without Senate-confirmed leaders.