The trio of senior nominees is caught up in Sen. Tommy Tuberville‘s (R-Ala.) blockade of hundreds of military promotions in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy. The move by Schumer would head off maneuvering by Republican senators to force votes on the nominees themselves.
Tuberville is pushing for a vote to confirm Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, a day after it was announced that Commandant Gen. Eric Smith was hospitalized on Sunday. The New York Times reported that Smith had an apparent heart attack while jogging, though the service has declined to go into specifics.
On the Senate floor Tuesday evening, Schumer said the gap in Marine leadership is an “avoidable emergency” created by Tuberville’s hold, a move he called “supremely risky.”
“Emergencies happen, and when they do the chain of command must be able to respond,” Schumer said. “But thanks to Senator Tuberville, there is no current No. 2 with the Marine Corps to fill in.”
The looming confirmation votes also mean the entire Joint Chiefs will be Senate confirmed for the first time since the summer. The nominees advanced by Schumer to lead the Navy and Air Force — Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Gen. David Allvin — are holding their respective posts on an acting basis.
The Alabama Republican is receiving renewed criticism over his hold after the Marines tapped a three-star general to take over for Smith, while the assistant commandant position is also vacant. Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) speculated that Smith’s need to perform two jobs amid the hold may have contributed to his medical emergency.
Reed said Smith’s condition demonstrates “how destructive these holds are.”
Tuberville isn’t the only Republican aiming to force action on senior picks.
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) has been circulating cloture petitions in recent weeks to force votes on Franchetti and Allvin.
Schumer’s move marks just the second time during the monthslong hold that the Democratic leader has allowed standalone votes on military promotions. Schumer has long resisted efforts to hold individual votes, noting that it would eat up hundreds of hours of floor time. Instead he has put the onus on Republicans to intervene.
A similar move by Tuberville last month forced Schumer’s hand on three top nominees. The Senate confirmed Joint Chiefs Chair Gen. C.Q. Brown, Army Chief of Staff Gen. Randy George and Smith in separate votes.