U.S. Navy becomes latest military branch with no commander amid Tuberville blocks

August 14, 2023

Should "unanimous consent" be used in the Senate for military promotions?

The Navy on Monday became the third branch of the U.S. military to go without a commander as Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) continues to block promotions.

Retiring Chief of Naval Operations Admiral Mike Gilday gave up command on Monday. The Navy joins the Army and Marine Corps in having no Senate-confirmed leader.

Tuberville has been systemically blocking military promotions in protest of the government’s funding to cover travel costs for abortions for service members and their dependents. More than 260 nominations have been held up so far this year, and that number could potentially reach 650 by the end of December.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Monday called Tuberville’s actions “unprecedented,” “unnecessary” and “unsafe.”

Admiral Lisa Franchetti has been nominated by President Biden to replace Gilday, but she has not received a confirmation vote in the Senate because of Tuberville. 

One Senator on the Armed Services Committee—in this case, Tuberville—is able to hold up potentially countless military promotions through a Senate procedure called “unanimous consent.”

In late July a group of Senate Democrats wrote to Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) urging him to exercise his authority to “prevail” upon his fellow Republican Tuberville to end his block of military promotions.

Though McConnell once quipped that the Senate “requires unanimous consent to turn the lights on before noon,” he has so far pushed back on calling Tuberville to account.

“I think holding the military personnel who have nothing to do with policy in order to try to dictate a policy change that I personally support is not the best way to go about it,” McConnell said in mid-July. “But as you can see…[Tuberville] has a different point of view.”

Last week Secretary Austin issued guidance to the military workforce on reshuffling key military roles in the wake of Tuberville’s blocks. They include assigning certain lower-level officers to lead in an acting capacity.

“Great teams need great leaders,” Austin said amid last week’s loss of the Army’s commander, adding, “In our dangerous world of security, the United States demands orderly and prompt transitions of our confirmed military leaders.”

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