Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Wednesday moved to tee up votes on three military nominations, including for Charles “C.Q.” Brown to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, marking Democrats’ first maneuver to get around Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) hold on more than 300 promotions.
Schumer also teed up votes on Gen. Randy George to become chief of staff of the Army and Gen. Eric Smith to become the next commandant of the Marine Corps.
The majority leader and top Democrats had held off holding one-off votes on top military brass as they worried it would start a slippery slope on such nominations, which are usually done en bloc and are noncontroversial.
On Wednesday Schumer called Tuberville’s action a “poorly conceived tactic,” noting that Senate GOP leadership has also been opposed to it.
Schumer said that he would ask for consent to hold votes on the three nominations later on Wednesday. He added that if Tuberville or another Senate Republican objects, the votes will be held on Friday and Saturday.
The Army and Marines — along with the Navy — are without Senate-confirmed heads, while outgoing Join Chiefs Chairman Mark Milley’s term ends on Oct. 1.
Schumer’s move came shortly before Tuberville was set to go to the floor in an attempt to advance Smith’s nomination around his own hold.
“Simply put, besides the most extreme elements of the Republican Party, no one thinks this is a good idea, and in the face of that opposition, it seems that Sen. Tuberville is becoming more and more desperate to get out of the box he put himself in,” Schumer said, referring to Tuberville’s vote threat. “The blame falls squarely on the shoulders of the senior senator from Alabama.”
“The Senate should not have to go through procedural hoops just to please one brazen and misguided senator, but this is where we are,” Schumer said.
Democrats earlier in the day had said they were unsure of how they would proceed on Tuberville’s push.
Sen. Dick Durbin (Ill.), the No. 2 Senate Democrat, told reporters that he didn’t know what the party strategy would be on the issue. However, he was adamant that going through these nominations one by one would cost time that the Senate does not have as they continue to wade through judicial and administration nominations, as well as business such as the ongoing spending efforts for Fiscal 2024.
“Taking these promotions one at a time would cost over 100 days on the Senate calendar,” Durbin said. “This is not a solution to his challenge. It really is going to drag this out at the expense of everything else that needs to be done in the Senate.”
Only minutes before Schumer’s announcement, Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) argued that the idea of moving to individual military nominations that would be handpicked by Tuberville “is just fundamentally wrong.”
Democrats have been hammering Republicans for months on the issue and have laid the blame at their feet, saying that it was their responsibility to get the Alabama senator to release his hold. The GOP in turn has been beating the drum that Schumer could move at any moment to advance these nominations individually despite the time-consuming process.
Updated at 2:16 p.m.