Senate to vote on senior military nominations following Smith's hospitalization

By Nick Wilson / November 1, 2023 at 11:31 AM

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) advanced the nominations of three senior military officials on Tuesday, seeking to fill key Defense Department positions that have been left vacant due to a blanket hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).

Schumer filed cloture on the nominations of Gen. David Allvin for Air Force chief of staff, Adm. Lisa Franchetti for chief of naval operations and Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney for assistant Marine Corps commandant.

The move follows the hospitalization of Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith, who experienced an undisclosed medical emergency on Sunday evening.

With no Senate-confirmed assistant commandant, Lt. Gen. Karsten Heckl, deputy commandant for combat development and integration and commanding general of Marine Corps Combat Development Command, is performing the duties of commandant while Smith recovers.

The job falls to Heckl because he is the most senior officer at Marine Corps Headquarters, according to a service press release.

“In typical Marine fashion, I am the next Marine up. This is what we do, as so many have done before us throughout the history of our Corps,” Heckl said in a Tuesday statement, adding that all orders remain in effect.

During an appearance at the Military Reporters and Editors conference last week, Smith said without a No. 2 officer, he is forced to handle the workload of the service’s top two positions.

Mahoney, who currently serves as the deputy commandant for programs and resources, was nominated for the post of assistant commandant in July.

Adm. Lisa Franchetti, who is also doing two jobs at once as the Navy’s vice chief of naval operations and acting CNO, was also nominated to serve as Navy service chief in July.

Tuberville is blocking the Senate’s typically streamlined process for advancing military nominations because he is opposed to the Pentagon’s leave and travel policies for servicemembers seeking abortion services. The blockade has stalled more than 300 nominations and promotions.