The Senate confirmed two generals as the new leaders of the Army and Marine Corps on Thursday, filling senior military posts left open due to a lawmaker’s opposition to Pentagon abortion access policies.
Senators approved General Randy George as chief of staff of the Army by a vote of 96-1, while General Eric Smith was confirmed as commandant of the Marine Corps 96-0.
The previous night, senators voted for General Charles Brown to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, but hundreds of other senior officers are still caught in limbo.
The Senate usually approves military nominations quickly through unanimous consent. But Sen. Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, has blocked that option for months in opposition to Pentagon efforts to assist troops who must travel to receive reproductive health care that is unavailable where they are stationed.
The Defense Department instituted the travel policy earlier this year in response to the 2022 Supreme Court decision striking down the nationwide right to abortion.
The previous chief of staff of the Army stepped down on Aug. 4 and George has been performing two jobs — vice chief of staff and acting head of the service — for more than a month.
Smith has been in the same situation since July 10.
Because of Tuberville’s actions, the Senate can only approve military nominations individually, which takes far longer. It is calculated to require a total of about 30 days and 17 hours for all of them if lawmakers worked the entire period without stopping, the nonpartisan Congressional Research Service has said.
That estimate, from August, was based on there being 273 military nominations awaiting votes. The number currently stands at more than 300.
Defense officials have repeatedly warned that the delay in approving the nominations poses risks to security and military readiness.