The Senate overwhelmingly voted Wednesday to advance the nomination of Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown to become the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the first military nomination to advance in the chamber since Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) began his blockade seven months ago.
The Senate voted 89-8 to tee up a final vote on Brown’s nomination.
Brown, an Air Force general, is set to replace outgoing Chairman Mark Milley, whose term ends Oct. 1. A vote on final passage on Brown to fill the post will take place Wednesday evening.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) earlier Wednesday moved to set votes on the three military leaders — Brown, Gen. Eric Smith to become commandant of the Marine Corps and Gen. Randy George to serve as chief of staff of the Army — in an attempt to ward off a plan by Tuberville to force votes on Smith in the coming days, a move that is rarely put to use by rank-and-file senators in the minority.
A vote to end debate on George’s nomination is also slated for later Wednesday.
The Army and Marine Corps — along with the Navy — are without Senate-confirmed heads due to Tuberville’s hold, which has kept more than 300 military promotions from being advanced. The Alabama Republican has kept these promotions in limbo over the Pentagon’s move last year to cover travel expenses of service members who seek abortion care.
Democrats have consistently said in recent months that they had little interest in bringing up individual votes on top military promotions and have maintained that it was the job of top Senate Republicans to loosen Tuberville’s grip on the nominations.
“The Marine Corps motto is not, ‘Support the top brass and leave everyone else behind,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) told reporters shortly before Schumer announced his plan.
“We need leadership throughout our military,” Warren continued. “The idea that Sen. Tuberville can just pick off one leader here and one leader there, and he decides where we actually have military taking the assignments that they were given months ago is just fundamentally wrong. … I get that he’s feeling some heat, but the right answer is: Lift the hold and let our military leadership do their jobs.”
Tuberville announced his plan to force a vote — essentially going around his own hold — during the Senate GOP lunch Tuesday and was set to go to the floor with the requisite 16 signatures by senators backing his push. None of the 16 senators were members of leadership and most are within the conservative wing of the Senate GOP conference.
“It’s time to get something done,” Tuberville told reporters, adding that he had planned on making his cloture push earlier this month but “decided to wait a little longer.”
“We need to get the Joint Chiefs filled,” he added.
Tuberville voted “no” on advancing Brown’s nomination Wednesday, along with Sens. Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Josh Hawley (R-Mo.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), Roger Marshall (R-Kan.), Eric Schmitt (R-Mo.) and JD Vance (R-Ohio).
Republicans have been stymied throughout in their quest to end Tuberville’s hold, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) saying that he disagrees with how the Alabama senator has gone about this tactically.
“We can’t have a permanent hold on them, no matter how you feel about the policy,” Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), an ally of GOP leadership, told reporters shortly before Schumer announced his plan. “What we’re trying to do is say, we’ve got to have a path. If you’re going to take a position, you … needed to know in advance that it was going to result in precisely what needed to occur to get off of it.”
“I don’t think it was thought through, quite honestly,” Tillis added. “That’s why we are where we are.”