Some cast last week’s confirmation of three top military officers by the U.S. Senate as a loss for Democrats and a win for conservative Republicans.
But the real W goes to the legislative branch.
The Constitution grants the Senate the sole power to confirm every officer of the United States. But for 220 days, the Senate Majority Leader, Chuck Schumer, refused to hold individual votes on the nation’s most senior uniformed officers nominated for promotions and new positions.
Though in office since 1975, the New York Democrat was outplayed by Alabama’s first-term senator, Tommy Tuberville. Provoked by a DOD policy change giving service members and their dependents unrestricted access to abortion, Tuberville objected to confirming the top brass by “unanimous consent.” U.C., as it is called in the Senate, is a practice that lumped these flag officers into batches with thousands of lower-ranked officer nominations, where they could be passed without discussion, examination, or a vote.
The mainstream media labeled Tuberville’s move a “hold,” and the former football coach was pilloried by President Biden as “reckless.” Elizabeth Warren went so far as to lament that general officers might not have “grocery money.”
Even when some Republicans began to wobble, including Sen. Mitch McConnell and Rep. Dan Crenshaw, Tuberville continued to demand a vote on senior defense positions.
Despite months of recess on the 2023 Senate schedule, Schumer’s chief argument was that the Senate had no time to hold such votes.
This week, Tuberville gathered the 16 signatures needed to force a vote to confirm Gen. Charles Q. Brown as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Randy A. George for Army chief of staff, and Gen. Eric M. Smith as the Marine Corps commandant.
Schumer folded like yesterday’s laundry, and had no choice but to schedule the votes. Worse, they were done quickly, proving false the claim that, “the Senate doesn’t have time to vote on each nominee.”
If Tuberville keeps up this pressure, the move puts the former Auburn football coach in the position to choose which of 300+ remaining generals and admirals gets a vote.
What a golden opportunity.
Suddenly, Alabama’s conservative senior senator has the juice to cull through the Pentagon’s senior officer promotion list. If he so chooses, he can weed out the woke zealots by not offering them up for a vote. Not to be outdone, Democrats will surely respond in kind by putting officers they think worthy up for a floor vote. At that point, debates on the merits of these officers will rage in full public view.
This is exactly what the founders intended when they gave the Senate the power to approve or reject U.S. officers in Article II, Section 2 of our Constitution.
Most Americans — and indeed most officers — would probably be surprised to know that Congress hasn’t given officer promotions a second look for at least 70 years. The uniformed chief of a service or the new four-star commander of a combatant command oversees thousands of individuals and billions of budget dollars. Shouldn’t our elected officials scrutinize the history and record of the nominated officer in question?
Until Sen. Tuberville demanded a floor vote on these officers, Congress simply abdicated this oversight authority to the executive branch.
That’s dereliction of duty.
Tuberville’s refusal to yield to Washington’s pressure machine has yanked power back to Congress, and with it, the coach finds himself in the position of making the call of which officers get a vote and which don’t.
My prediction: a lot of general officers will soon regret their own remarks about elected officials and Sen. Tuberville in particular.
Our senior ranks have been drifting leftward for years, implementing Marxist reading lists, environmentally green battle plans and promotions based on gender, race and sexuality rather than merit. More importantly, America’s military performance has suffered since the Korean era.
To name a recent example, many Americans wondered why not one senior officer (military or otherwise) in the entirety of the U.S. government lost his job over the collapse of Afghanistan.
If Senate offices actually start reviewing the annual fitness reports and job performance of our senior-most ranks instead of simply rubber-stamping their next pay raise and promotion, America’s military and taxpayers will benefit.
More scrutiny and oversight, not less, will improve accountability.
With last week’s votes, senior officers are now on notice that their careers, their records and their forthrightness are going to be examined by Congress.
That may change the game entirely, and for that, we can thank Alabama’s senior senator for reclaiming congressional oversight of America’s military.
Morgan Murphy is a veteran of Afghanistan and can be found online @morganwwmurphy.
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