Senate confirms top Marine commander, bypassing Tuberville block

September 21, 2023

On Thursday the Senate voted to confirm Gen. Eric Smith to be Marine Corps Commandant, circumventing a block on military nominations by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

Smith was confirmed by a vote of 96-0.

His was the third military confirmation in fairly rapid succession Senate after Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) filed cloture on Wednesday to advance their nominations.  On Wednesday evening, Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown was confirmed to replace Gen. Mark Milley as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff at the end of October. And earlier Thursday the Senate voted to confirm Gen. Randy George as Army Chief of Staff.

In all three confirmations, the votes were overwhelmingly in the “yes” column and along bipartisan lines. 

The top military trio had been among more than 300 nominations blockaded by Tuberville until the if the government agrees to his demand that it stop paying for service members to travel across state lines to obtain abortions. He has remained unwilling to budge from his ongoing blockade of military promotions despite even a growing number of Republicans voicing their disapproval of his actions.

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

At his current rate, Tuberville is on track to potentially obstruct more than 650 military nominations and promotions by the end of December. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called Tuberville’s actions “unprecedented,” “unnecessary” and “unsafe.”

Since July, Gen. Smith had been working two jobs—his own as the number two commander and that of “acting” Marine Commandant, since Gen. David Berger retired from the top position amid Tuberville’s blockades.

As recently as three days ago, Gen. Smith had called the situation “unsustainable.” 

Schumer and top Democrats had held off holding individual votes on top military brass amid worries it would start a slippery slope on such nominations, which are usually done as a whole grouping, or “en bloc,” and are noncontroversial.

Some Senate Democrats have called for one-off votes for top nominations while at the same time voicing skepticism about its practicality within the entire situation. Senate Democratic Whip Dick Durbin of Illinois noted that individual votes on military nominations could potentially take up “over 100 days on the Senate calendar.”

And Schumer has noted, “If everyone objected to everything to get leverage for their pet priorities, it will grind this body to a halt.”

PHOTO: Gen. Eric Smith in 2021

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