Air Force Gen. CQ Brown pictured May 11, 2022.

Air Force Gen. CQ Brown pictured May 11, 2022. (Eric Dietrich/U.S. Air Force)

WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Wednesday to confirm Air Force Gen. CQ Brown as the next chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff as the chamber began circumventing a seven-month hold on military promotions by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

Brown is the first of three generals Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., plans to push through the Senate in the coming days, along with Gen. Randy George for Army chief of staff and Gen. Eric Smith as commandant of the Marine Corps.

“The Senate will overwhelmingly vote to confirm them, and these three honorable men will finally be able to assume their positions,” Schumer said.

Brown’s confirmation broke a deadlock over senior military promotions that still leaves some 300 general and flag officers in limbo. Tuberville instigated his hold in February to force the Pentagon to end its policy of giving leave and travel reimbursement to service members seeking abortions and other reproductive health care.

Pressure to end Tuberville’s blockade climbed in recent weeks as Democrats and military officials detailed how frozen promotions and appointments impacted military families and national security. On Tuesday, a veterans group decorated a lawn outside the Senate with signs displaying the names and photos of the stalled nominees.

Tuberville continues to obstruct the unanimous voice vote process normally used to confirm batches of military promotions but has repeatedly called on Schumer to vote on nominees one by one. The Congressional Research Service estimated that would take at least 700 hours.

Schumer had resisted putting individual nominees up for a floor vote, fearing it would set a damaging precedent, but relented Wednesday after Tuberville signaled he would attempt to force an individual vote on Smith. Schumer described Tuberville’s move as “an act of desperation.”

“We cannot allow Sen. Tuberville to set the Senate on a path that no senator wants to travel,” Schumer said. “We cannot allow Sen. Tuberville to decide which of our dedicated and brave service members get promoted and which get to languish, which military families are able to settle in their new posts and which must remain in limbo.”

Tuberville deemed the capitulation by Schumer a “win for the legislative branch of government” and said he reserves the right to again seek a cloture vote on an individual nominee — a procedural step that is typically only invoked by the Senate majority leader.

“There is nothing wrong with a floor vote on these nominations,” Tuberville said. “I ran for Senate so I could vote on behalf of the people of the state of Alabama. I didn’t come up here just to outsource my job to the Pentagon or the White House yet that’s exactly what Democrats want to do.”

He dismissed concerns his hold was hurting military readiness and said Schumer is ultimately responsible for letting the logjam of nominees grow to its current size. Still, Tuberville voted Wednesday against a cloture motion to end debate on Brown’s nomination as well as the final vote to confirm him.

“Nothing demonstrates that Sen. Tuberville is the sole cause of this crisis better than his vote against cloture on Gen. CQ Brown today,” said Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee. “It’s really quite something that he was willing to file a cloture motion earlier today, and ended up voting against a cloture motion a few hours later.”

Brown was approved by the Senate panel, of which Tuberville is a member, during the summer. He will become just the second Black man, after Colin Powell, to serve as the president’s most senior military adviser when Army Gen. Mark Milley retires at the end of the month.

A career fighter pilot, Brown logged more than 3,000 flight hours, including 130 hours in combat, and has served as Air Force chief of staff since 2020. He warned in July that Tuberville’s hold will harm troop retention because “spouses will compare notes” about the disruptions that it is causing.

Brown will begin his chairmanship on Oct. 1. His service alongside Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin will mark the first time in U.S. history that the Pentagon’s top two leadership positions are held by Black men.

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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