The Senate confirms the presence of three additional military officers around the Tuberville blockade

By | November 2, 2023

The Senate on Thursday confirmed the nominations of three additional senior officers in its latest move to circumvent the sweeping blockade imposed on President Biden’s nominees by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) in an effort to gain leverage in the fight against the Pentagon’s travel policy. troops seeking abortion.

Admiral Lisa Franchetti, who will become the first woman to lead the Navy and join the Joint Chiefs of Staff, was approved by lopsided margins; Gen. David W. Allvin, appointed to lead the Air Force; and Lt. Gen. Christopher J. Mahoney, who will be promoted to four-star general, will become the No. 2 officer in the Marine Corps and assume the role of acting commander in the absence of Gen. Eric Smith, who suffered apparent cardiac arrest on Sunday. Smith, 58, was in stable condition Wednesday evening with an uncertain long-term prognosis.

Deputy Secretary of Defense Kathleen Hicks, the Pentagon’s number two policymaker, appeared Thursday to link the decision directly to Smith’s condition.

“We have said repeatedly over the last six months that this restraint was unnecessary, unprecedented and dangerous, and it was bad for our military and for our military families, and it was bad for our country,” she declared. “We saw the tragic effects of this stress, but we also saw the stress on an individual level. And I think that was communicated well on Capitol Hill.

Each of the officers confirmed Thursday are considered highly qualified.

Franchetti, 59, has served as vice chief of naval operations since September 2022 and has commanded naval forces around the world as a surface warfare officer. She will support a service increasingly focused on operations in the Pacific, as the Pentagon adapts to growing military competition with China. The Senate confirmed her Thursday by a 95-1 vote.

Allvin, 60, served as a cargo pilot and led increasingly larger units before becoming vice chief of staff of the Air Force in November 2020. His confirmation passed 95-1.

Mahoney, 58, has served as the Marine Corps’ deputy commandant for programs and resources since August 2021, overseeing the service’s budget. A fighter pilot, he has many years of service in the Pacific and is a graduate of the Naval Fighter Weapons School, commonly known as Top Gun. Mahoney was confirmed by a vote of 86-0.

Senate Republicans erupt in anger over Tuberville military freeze

The confirmation votes came amid growing frustration among fellow Republicans over Tuberville’s tactics. For nearly five hours on the Senate floor Wednesday night, Sens. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Joni Ernst (Iowa) and other GOP colleagues denounced the move and said Tuberville had other options to protest the political decisions. They echoed concerns from White House and Senate Democrats that Tuberville is undermining U.S. military preparedness at a time when wars rage in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Several Republicans, including Senators Lindsey O. Graham (SC) and Dan Sullivan (AS), faced Senator Tommy Tuberville on the Senate floor on November 1. (Video: The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

Tuberville launched the legislative blockade in February, preventing the Senate from using its usual process to approve noncontroversial nominees in batches of dozens or hundreds at a time. The number of military officers trapped in the blockage totals more than 370 and includes posts in commands around the world. The Pentagon estimates that by the end of the year, about three-quarters of the Defense Department’s generals and admirals — 650 out of 852 — will be affected if no resolution is reached.

The Senate can circumvent Tuberville’s influence by voting for individual leaders, and it has done so three times already. However, by doing this for each frozen application, it would take months and hinder action on many other issues.

On Thursday, Ernst said she plans to continue fielding nominations next week in the Senate. “We’ll keep going until, you know, the pressure continues to mount,” she said.

As he left the Capitol on Thursday, Tuberville expressed his displeasure with the opposition. “I’ve been doing this for nine months and all of a sudden they’re angry?” he said, leaving aside that several of his Republican colleagues said Wednesday night that they had tried privately for months to push Tuberville into another form of protest.

Tuberville also disputed the notion that Smith’s medical emergency was the result of the senator’s actions. The general had actually served in the role of commandant and deputy commandant of the Marine Corps for several months, and said he did not believe it was “sustainable.”

“Come on, give me a break,” Tuberville told reporters. “This guy is going to work 18 to 20 hours a day no matter what. This is what we do. I did it for years because you have to do the work.

In a statement, his office later claimed credit for forcing Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D.-NY) to hold Mahoney’s confirmation vote by filing a petition. Republicans expressed frustration that Schumer did not more quickly get some of the military nominees to come out for individual votes.

During a briefing for reporters Thursday, White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuberville’s actions are “causing stress and disruption to our military families all the way down the line.” of command as well as to the spouses of military personnel and their families.”

“The world is too dangerous,” she said. “It is too dangerous to play political games with our military. We are therefore happy to see that the Senate is taking action. Senator Tuberville must end this damaging influence…as soon as possible.»

Schumer told reporters Wednesday that he supports a Democratic proposal to allow the Senate to bypass Tuberville’s hold and allow senators to vote on a large bloc of military nominees. The resolution, supported by Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.), chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.), would need all Democrats and nine Republican votes to pass .

Any vote to circumvent Tuberville’s hold on the hundreds of other frozen applications is likely weeks away, as it still has to go through the committee process. Many Republican senators, however, rejected the idea, saying it could weaken lawmakers’ power to block nominations in the future.

Some Republicans have urged Tuberville to adjust his tactics and instead focus on Biden’s proposed political appointments.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Tuberville said he has no plans to change course. “We’re not going to start going backwards now just because people are starting to get cold feet…on my side” of the political aisle. He held firm to this position as the evening progressed, declaring “I oppose it” each time his Republican colleagues, most of them from the military themselves, nominated an individual officer for a position. promotion.

Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

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