The Senate on Thursday confirmed three more senior military officers in its latest move to bypass an expansive blockade on President Biden’s nominees imposed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., in a bid to gain leverage in a fight over the Pentagon’s travel policy for troops seeking abortions.

Approved by lopsided margins were Adm. Lisa Franchetti, Biden’s choice to lead the Navy, who will become the first woman on the Joint Chiefs of Staff; Gen. David W. Allvin, nominated to lead the Air Force; and Lt. Gen. Christopher J. Mahoney, who will be promoted to four-star general, become the Marine Corps’ No. 2 officer and step in as the caretaker commandant in the absence of Gen. Eric Smith, who suffered apparent cardiac arrest Sunday. Smith, 58, was in stable condition Wednesday evening with an unclear long-term prognosis.

Congress Military Nominations

Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti speaks during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on her nomination for reappointment to the grade of admiral and to be Chief of Naval Operations on Sept. 14. Jacquelyn Martin/Associated Press

Deputy Defense Secretary Kathleen Hicks, the Pentagon’s No. 2 political appointee, appeared to link the hold Thursday directly to Smith’s condition.

“We’ve said many times in the last six months that the hold is unnecessary, unprecedented and unsafe, and that it’s bad for our military and bad for our military families, and it’s bad for our country,” she said. “We have seen tragic effects of that stress, but we’ve also seen stress at the individual human level. And I think that’s been well-communicated on Capitol Hill.”

Each of the officers confirmed on Thursday is considered highly qualified.

Franchetti, 59, has served as the vice chief of naval operations since September 2022 and has commanded naval forces all over the world as a surface warfare officer. She will take over a service that is increasingly focused on operations in the Pacific as the Pentagon adjusts to a rising military competition with China. The Senate confirmed her by a vote of 95-1 on Thursday.


Allvin, 60, served as a cargo pilot and led increasingly large units before becoming vice chief of staff in the Air Force in November 2020. His confirmation passed 95-1.

Mahoney, 58, has served as the Marine Corps deputy commandant for programs and resources since August 2021, overseeing the service’s budget. A fighter pilot, he has extensive service in the Pacific and graduated from the Naval Fighter Weapons School, commonly known as Top Gun. Mahoney was confirmed with an 86-0 vote.

The confirmation votes came amid mounting frustration among fellow Republicans at Tuberville’s tactics. Over nearly five hours on the Senate floor on Wednesday night, several of his GOP colleagues publicly denounced the gambit and urged Senate leaders to take immediate action to end the impasse. They echoed concerns of the White House and Senate Democrats that Tuberville is undercutting U.S. military readiness at a time when wars are raging in the Middle East and Ukraine.

Tuberville initiated the legislative blockade in February, preventing the Senate from using its typical process for approving uncontroversial nominees in batches of dozens or hundreds at a time. The number of military officers ensnared by the logjam has risen to 375 and includes positions spanning commands worldwide. The Pentagon estimates that by the end of the year, about three-quarters of the generals and admirals in the Defense Department – 650 of 852 – will be affected if there is no resolution.

The Senate can bypass Tuberville’s hold by voting on officers individually, and had done so previously in three instances. Doing so for every frozen nomination, however, would take months and impede action on numerous other issues.

On Thursday, Republican Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa said she planned to continue offering nominations next week on the Senate floor. “We’ll keep going until, you know, the pressure continues to build,” she said.


Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on Capitol Hill in September. Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post

Leaving the Capitol on Thursday, Tuberville expressed annoyance with the opposition. “I’ve been doing this for nine months and all of a sudden they’re mad?” he said.

At a briefing for reporters Thursday, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Tuberville’s actions are “causing stress and disruption to our military families across the chain of command and for military spouses and also their families.”

“The world is too dangerous,” she said. “It is too dangerous to play political games with our military. So we are pleased to see that the Senate is taking action. Senator Tuberville needs to end to end this damaging hold … as soon as possible.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., told reporters Wednesday that he supports a Democratic proposal to allow the Senate to circumvent Tuberville’s hold and allow senators to vote on a large block of military nominees. The resolution, backed by Sen. Jack Reed, D-R.I., chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., would need all Democrats and nine Republican votes to pass.

Any vote to go around Tuberville’s hold on the hundreds of other frozen nominations is probably weeks away, as it still needs to go through the committee process. Many Republican senators have rejected the idea, however, saying they believe it could weaken lawmakers’ power to stall nominations in the future.

Some Republicans have urged Tuberville to adjust tactics and focus instead on Biden’s proposed political appointments.


Confronting Tuberville publicly for the first time since he announced the holds, the Republican senators – Ernst, Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham, Indiana Sen. Todd Young and others – read lengthy biographies, praised the nominees and lashed out at Tuberville as they called for vote after vote Wednesday night. They said they agreed with the Alabama senator in opposing the abortion policy but questioned – as Democrats have for months – why he would hold up the highest ranks of the U.S. military.

Sullivan said Tuberville is “100% wrong” that his holds are not affecting military readiness. Ernst said the nominees are being used as “political pawns.” Utah Sen. Mitt Romney advised Tuberville to try to negotiate an end to the standoff. All of them warned that good people would leave military service if the blockade continued.

As Wednesday night wore on, Sullivan, a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve, and Ernst, a former commander in the U.S. Army Reserve and Iowa Army National Guard, continued to bring up new nominations and appeared to become increasingly frustrated. They noted that they were bringing up the nominations “one by one,” as Tuberville had once called for, and they asked why he wouldn’t allow them to go forward. Tuberville did not answer.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Tuberville said he has no intent to change course. “We’re not going to start backing up now just because people are starting to get cold feet … on my side” of the political aisle. He held firmly to this position as the evening’s theatrics wore on, declaring “I object” each time as his GOP colleagues, most with military backgrounds themselves, proposed an individual officer for a promotion.


Washington Post writer Liz Goodwin contributed to this report.

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