The Senate confirmed nearly a dozen nominees for top military posts on Tuesday night, marking the end of Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s remaining holds over senior promotions.
With senators rushing to wrap up before the holiday, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer secured a deal to confirm all 11 nominees for four-star positions by voice vote.
Their confirmation ends Tuberville’s blockade of military nominations, which was in its 11th month. The Alabama Republican has been using the tactic despite harsh criticism from both parties, but it ended after failing to win any concessions from the administration.
Tuberville began blocking the confirmation of senior military promotions in February in protest of the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing travel costs for troops seeking abortions — an unprecedented holdup that prompted outcries from Pentagon brass and even fellow Republicans that the tactic jeopardized military readiness and disrupted military families.
At its height, the impasse ensnared more than 400 general and flag officers, whose confirmations are typically uncontroversial. It also at one point included the nominees for Joint Chiefs chair and most of the leaders of the military services.
The Alabama Republican dropped his hold for most promotions this month under pressure from his own party, paving the way for hundreds of confirmations. But he continued to stall four-star officers, making their confirmation one of the main pieces of unfinished business.
Schumer pledged on Tuesday that all the officers would be confirmed before the Senate adjourns for the year.
“These 11 flag officers have now been approved, joining the rest of their colleagues who we approved a few weeks ago,” Schumer said following their confirmation. “That’s good news.”
Minority Leader Mitch McConnell told reporters after leaving the Senate floor, “It’s good news. We’re happy about it.”
The nominee deal struck Tuesday evening sidestepped the requirement for at least two votes on each nominee — a procedural vote to end debate and a confirmation vote. Tuberville had indicated he’d still force individual votes on the nominees, which would have meant nearly two dozen votes stood between senators and leaving for the holidays.
In the end, Tuberville consented to allow the remaining nominees to clear easily.
Tuberville’s failure to secure any clear victory after employing the unprecedented tactic in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy was a fitting conclusion, said Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.).
“I think it’s not a winning tactic. I think it’s put quite a lot of men and women in uniform in a very difficult situation and made their lives difficult for many months,” she said in a brief interview. “It should not have happened.”
Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a key player in the Republican pressure campaign on Tuberville, said he flew back from his home state to cast confirmation votes.
“Everybody recognizes that you don’t want to hold those guys over the holidays,” Sullivan said. “Everybody knows it’s really important in terms of national security. Look at those four stars. They are really important positions.”
Other Republicans were happy to see the thorny situation finally come to an end.
“When things get resolved, of course we are happy to move on,” the Senate Armed Services Committee’s top Republican, Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said.
The 11 generals and admirals include picks to lead top military commands and for some of the most senior posts in their services.
Three officers had been selected to be combatant commanders: Air Force Lt. Gen. Gregory Guillot to lead Northern Command, Air Force Lt. Gen. Timothy Haugh to head up Cyber Command and Space Force Lt. Gen. Stephen Whiting to run U.S. Space Command.
Another four will be their service’s second ranking officer: Army Lt. Gen. James Mingus, Space Force Lt. Gen. Michael Guetlein, Air Force Lt. Gen. James Slife and Navy Adm. James Kilby.
Others are heading to major four-star posts. Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler will command the Navy’s Pacific Fleet and Lt. Gen. Kevin Schneider will oversee Air Force assets in the Pacific.
Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach will head up Air Combat Command, and Vice Adm. William Houston will be director of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program.
A twelfth nominee, Adm. Samuel Paparo, tapped to lead Indo-Pacific Command, has not yet advanced out of committee.
Tuberville could restart the blockade by delaying Paparo or other four-star nominees Biden sends to the Senate, but he now has fewer opportunities to do so.
Tuberville has retained his hold on civilian Pentagon nominees. One pick is pending in the full Senate and subject to the hold: Ronald Keohane, tapped to be assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.