WASHINGTON — The Senate voted Thursday to make General Randy A. George the next Army chief of staff and Eric M. Smith the next commandant of the Marine Corps, confirming two more senior military officers whose promotions had been stalled by Senator Tommy Tuberville amid a prolonged dispute over a Pentagon abortion policy.
With the votes to allow George and Smith to officially step into their new positions, the Senate has approved three of President Biden’s military nominees since Wednesday despite Tuberville’s virtual blockade. But more than 300 other senior officers remain ensnared in the Alabama Republican’s months-long hold on promotions with no clear path to immediate advancement in most cases.
Typically, senior officer promotions are approved in blocs by the Senate through unanimous consent to avoid lengthy floor debates and the politicization of votes around military commanders. But Tuberville has utilized Senate rules to block swift approval of such promotions.
He doubled down on his promise Wednesday night to continue with the tactic after Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, Democrat of New York, chose to peel away three senior military nominations for individual votes under the chamber’s cloture rules.
George, 58, has served as vice chief of staff of the Army since August 2022, and as the service’s acting chief since last month, when General James McConville stepped down. George previously served as a senior military assistant to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. He also has commanded soldiers in Iraq and Afghanistan.
Smith, 58, has served as the assistant commandant of the Marine Corps since October 2021, and as the service’s acting administrator since July, when General David Berger stepped down as commandant to retire. Smith previously commanded US troops in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Pacific. During the Obama administration, he also served as a senior military assistant to then-Defense Secretary Ashton B. Carter, a position that he has said gave him a better appreciation for how different parts of the Pentagon collaborate and at times compete for resources.
On Wednesday night, the Senate confirmed Air Force General Charles Q. Brown Jr. as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff after Schumer teed up an individual vote on his nomination as well. Schumer’s move helped the Senate avoid the embarrassing prospect of a temporary administrator filling the Pentagon’s most prestigious post.
No Labels gains 15,000 registrants in Arizona
PHOENIX — More than 15,000 people in Arizona have registered to join a new political party floating a possible bipartisan “unity ticket” against Joe Biden and Donald Trump.
While that’s less than the population of each of the state’s 40 largest cities, it’s still a number big enough to tip the presidential election in a critical swing state. And that is alarming people trying to stop Trump from winning the White House again.
The very existence of the No Labels group is fanning Democratic anxiety about Trump’s chances against an incumbent president facing questions about his age and record. While it hasn’t committed to running candidates for president and vice president, No Labels has already secured ballot access in Arizona and 10 other states. Its organizers say they are on track to reach 20 states by the end of this year and all 50 states by Election Day.
“If they have someone on the ballot who is designed to bring the country together, that clearly draws votes away from Joe Biden and does not draw votes away from Donald Trump,” said Rodd McLeod, a Democratic strategist in Arizona.
That’s raising the stakes for Biden allies who are mounting a furious pressure campaign against No Labels and politicians taking meetings with the group.
In Arizona, which Biden won by about 10,000 votes, the state Democratic Party sued Secretary of State Adrian Fontes, also a Democrat, to try to prevent No Labels from being on the ballot. The party lost in court and then dropped its lawsuit.
Now Democrats are pushing Fontes to force No Labels to disclose its donors, having insinuated that the group is being supported by conservatives attempting to thwart Biden. No Labels has so far refused to name how it is funding its work, saying it follows federal law and wants to protect the privacy of its donors.
Fontes has not commented publicly but is expected to announce a decision in the coming weeks after telling No Labels he may take action against the group for failing to register under the state’s campaign finance law. His decision is likely to be challenged in court.
Some of the anti-No Labels efforts here are quixotic. A perennial candidate from outside Phoenix signed up as a No Labels candidate and declared himself chairman of No Labels’ Pinal County chapter, in part so he could run for state office and try to force the party to follow the state’s campaign finance reporting laws.
“It’s kind of like a performance art piece,” said Richard Grayson, who promptly after switching to No Labels endorsed Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris.
Biden’s narrow 2020 victory came with the help of anti-Trump Republicans, right-leaning independents, and voters who disliked both candidates but saw Biden as a better option than Trump. He’ll need their support to win a rematch.
Kari Lake seeks to review ballot envelopes
PHOENIX — Kari Lake, the Republican who unsuccessfully challenged her defeat in the 2022 Arizona governor’s race, is headed to another trial Thursday in a separate lawsuit, this time asking to review ballot envelopes signed by approximately 1.3 million early voters in the state’s most populous county.
The former TV anchor has already lost two trials that challenged her loss to Democratic Governor Katie Hobbs by more than 17,000 votes. In the second trial, a judge rejected a misconduct claim Lake made about ballot signature-verification efforts in Maricopa County, home to Phoenix and where more than 60 percent of the state’s voters live.
Lake’s latest case doesn’t challenge her defeat but instead is a public records lawsuit that asks to review all early ballot envelopes with voter signatures in Maricopa County, where officials had denied her request for those documents.
She is among the most vocal of last year’s Republican candidates promoting former president Donald Trump’s election lies, which she made the centerpiece of her campaign. While most other election deniers around the country conceded after losing their races in November, Lake did not. She is openly considering a run for the US Senate and is regarded as a contender to be Trump’s running mate in his 2024 campaign.