Gen. Eric Smith, commandant of the Marine Corps, salutes Oct. 23, 2023, during the 40th Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C.

Gen. Eric Smith, commandant of the Marine Corps, salutes Oct. 23, 2023, during the 40th Beirut Memorial Observance Ceremony at Lejeune Memorial Gardens in Jacksonville, N.C. (Zachary Zephir/USMC)

WASHINGTON – Gen. Eric Smith, new Marine Corps commandant, remained in the hospital Wednesday but in stable condition after experiencing a medical emergency near his home three days ago, the service said.

Smith was near his home at the Marine Barracks in southeastern Washington on Sunday when the emergency occurred and was taken to a nearby hospital, officials said. Earlier in the day, he attended the Marine Corps Marathon.

The New York Times reported earlier this week that Smith suffered a heart attack while jogging near his home, but the Marine Corps has declined to describe the nature of the medical emergency at the request of the commandant’s family.

“He is currently listed in stable condition and is recovering in a leading hospital in our nation’s capital,” the Marine Corps said in a statement. “His family has requested privacy at this time, as Gen. Smith continues his recovery.”

President Joe Biden nominated Smith in May to succeed Gen. David Berger as the Marine Corps commandant, which is the top-ranking position in the service. But Smith’s appointment was delayed — along with those of hundreds of other top military officers — by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., over a Pentagon policy that reimburses expenses to troops who want to travel to other states to get reproductive care, including abortions. Smith was finally confirmed in September.

In recent weeks, Smith had been performing two jobs -- commandant and assistant commandant -- because the nominee to be the new assistant commandant, Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, remains stalled by Tuberville. Democrats in the Senate are now working to confirm three of the top remaining nominations, including Mahoney.

Military nominations are usually confirmed by voice vote in large groups, but Senate rules allow just one senator to hold up that process. Because almost 400 nominations have now been blocked by Tuberville, the only choice that the Senate has is to approve some of the top nominees individually. Along with Smith in September, the Senate confirmed Air Force Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and Gen. Randy George as the Army chief of staff.

“Normally Lt. Gen. Mahoney would have been able to immediately step in to temporarily serve as commandant, but unfortunately because of the blanket holds of just one senator — Sen. Tuberville — that cannot happen,” Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday. “The situation at the Marine Corps is precisely the kind of avoidable emergency that Sen. Tuberville has provoked through his reckless holds.”

The Marine Corps said further updates on Smith’s condition will be “provided as appropriate.” For the time being, Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, the most senior officer at Marine Corps headquarters, is performing Smith’s duties.

“In typical Marine fashion, I am the next Marine up,” Heckl said. “We must continue the march forward on behalf of our fellow Marines and the nation, regardless of the situation or the uncertainty that we may face.”

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Doug G. Ware covers the Department of Defense at the Pentagon. He has many years of experience in journalism, digital media and broadcasting and holds a degree from the University of Utah. He is based in Washington, D.C.

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