The Senate voted Thursday to confirm Adm. Lisa Franchetti as the Navy’s 33rd chief of naval operations, ending a months-long delay caused by Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s ongoing blockade of military nominations that he began in protest of Defense Department abortion access policies.
Franchetti became not only the first woman to serve as the Navy’s top officer, but the first to serve on the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
While Franchetti was confirmed around 12:50 p.m. local time, it remains to be seen when hundreds of lower-ranking military nominations will get a vote.
Those still waiting to be confirmed include Adm. Samuel Paparo to lead U.S. Indo-Pacific Command and Vice Adm. James Kilby to receive a fourth star and become vice chief of naval operations.
Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler has also been nominated to become a four-star admiral and become the next head of U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Franchetti has for recent months been serving as CNO in an acting capacity, while still holding the title of vice chief.
The list of blocked nominees grew to 378 as of Friday but could balloon to 650 by year’s end, according to the Pentagon.
After Franchetti was confirmed, Gen. David W. Allvin was confirmed as the next Air Force chief of staff.
Later in the day, Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney was confirmed as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps.
Mahoney’s stalled confirmation became doubly urgent this week after Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith was hospitalized Sunday for a condition the service has yet to disclose.
Thursday’s confirmation vote came one day after Senate Democrats threatened rule changes to overcome an eight-month blockade by the Alabama Republican Tuberville of nearly all senior military nominations and promotions.
Wednesday night, Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Dan Sullivan of Alaska — both of whom served in the military — spent more than four hours attempting to bring up for a vote 61 of the 378 pending nominations stalled by Tuberville, calling it an issue of national security and common sense.
“We are punishing [these officers] for what all of us here believe is a very bad policy at the Department of Defense,” Ernst said. “But it’s a policy they have absolutely nothing to do with.”
Tuberville objected to the quick consideration of every one. Earlier in the day, he said Republicans who voted with Democrats to get around his hold would be committing “political suicide” by opposing his anti-abortion protest.
Sullivan called that stance frustrating.
“I’m hopeful we can find a way forward,” Sullivan said. “We are facing a really dangerous period, and we’re impacting readiness and morale. To my colleague who says there is no readiness problem with [these holds], that’s just ridiculous.”
Tuberville has been a target of criticism since February when he announced a total hold on routine approvals for senior military promotions and confirmations to protest the Defense Department’s abortion access policy.
Military members can receive time off and travel stipends to go across state lines for abortion procedures if they are stationed in areas where access is limited or outlawed. Administration officials have said the move is needed to provide full health care for troops and their families. Conservative lawmakers have called the policy illegal and immoral.
Tuberville’s hold does not completely block the Senate’s ability to approve promotions and nominations, but does shift the business from a few minutes of routine votes to hours and days of floor debate.
Tuberville has said he won’t lift the hold until the policy is changed or Congress votes to approve the existing rules. Democrats have accused him of grandstanding and hurting national security.
Military Times reporter Leo Shane contributed to this report.
Correction: an earlier version of this story misstated the position for which Vice Adm. Stephen Koehler was nominated. He was nominated to become the next leader of U.S. Pacific Fleet.
Geoff is the editor of Navy Times, but he still loves writing stories. He covered Iraq and Afghanistan extensively and was a reporter at the Chicago Tribune. He welcomes any and all kinds of tips at email@example.com.