Only 11 of 49 Republican senators voted against President Joe Biden’s nominee for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, after many conservatives raised concerns about critical race theory and other woke ideas and policies invading the military.
The Senate confirmed Air Force Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown Jr. to the nation’s top military position Wednesday by a vote of 83-11, despite critics who cited Brown’s past statements about the military’s need for more diversity, equity, and inclusion, known as DEI.
“With the U.S. military experiencing crisis levels of low recruitment, a number of Gen. Brown’s past statements and actions raised concerns that, as the nation’s highest-ranking military officer, he would prioritize the woke DEI priorities of the Biden administration over merit-based criteria,” Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., told The Daily Signal in an emailed statement.
Besides Johnson, the other Republican “no” votes on Brown were from Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana; Ted Cruz of Texas; Josh Hawley and Eric Schmitt of Missouri; Mike Lee of Utah; Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming; Marco Rubio of Florida; Tommy Tuberville of Alabama; and JD Vance of Ohio.
Four Senate Republicans didn’t vote on the confirmation: Tom Cotton of Arkansas, Tim Scott of South Carolina, Jerry Moran of Kansas, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska.
Two Democrats didn’t vote: Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Dianne Feinstein of California.
Conservatives were concerned that Brown signed on to an August 2022 memo from senior Air Force and Space Force leadership calling for a more “diverse” set of officers, rather than those selected through merit. In addition to Brown, the memo was signed by Space Force Gen. John W. Raymond, chief of space operations; Secretary of the Air Force Gen. Frank Kendall; and Undersecretary of the Air Force Gina Ortiz Jones.
Still, Brown’s nomination by Biden cleared the Senate Armed Services Committee with a unanimous vote, and Senate Republicans have pointed to reassurances that Brown made during his confirmation hearing in July.
Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C., was among GOP senators on the Armed Services Committee to ask Brown about the DEI memo.
“The goal there was to actually outreach to broader aspects across the nation and show them the opportunity to join the force,” Brown, who is black, told Budd during the hearing. “What the memo also says is there’s a goal to allow those young people to understand what those opportunities are, but to get selected to come into the academy, ROTC, or any other program, it’s merit based.”
In July, the American Accountability Foundation, a government watchdog group, filed a complaint with the Office of the Air Force Inspector General, citing past comments suggesting that, as the top official in the Air Force, Brown hired and promoted based on racial considerations.
Examples in the complaint include a 2021 interview in People magazine that quotes Brown as saying that “we’ve got to closely manage our diverse populations.”
An article in The Washington Post, also from 2021, quotes Brown as saying: “The other thing that we have to do is ensure that we have diversity on the [military advisory] boards, but also diversity on the candidate list.”
The complaint to the Air Force’s inspector general also quotes an interview with the Chicago Council on Global Affairs in November 2020, when Brown flatly said, “I hire for diversity.” He also said: “I purposely build my office, my front office, and my team with diverse” backgrounds.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin heralded Brown’s Senate confirmation.
“He will be a tremendous leader of our joint force and I look forward to working with him in his new capacity,” Austin, who also is black, said in a written statement. “I also want to thank Gen. [Mark] Milley, his wife Hollyanne and the entire Milley family for their selfless, decadeslong service to this nation.”
Brown will succeed Milley, an Army general who has been chairman of the Joint Chiefs since October 2019 and also has been criticized as undermining readiness with woke policies.
Brown’s confirmation was part of a Senate procedural contest. Tuberville, among the 11 Senate Republicans who voted no, has placed a hold on more than 300 military promotions until the Pentagon stops paying for employee and family travel for abortion.
For seven months, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., complained that the holds interfered with military readiness. As majority leader, Schumer had the power to bring the promotions to the Senate floor for a vote. But the New York Democrat refused to allow any votes until Tuberville dropped his hold on the officers nominated for promotion.
Tuberville called Schumer’s bluff and announced plans Tuesday to force a vote on the commandant of the Marine Corps. On Wednesday, Schumer brought three military nominations to the floor.
“He wasn’t going to do it. I forced his hand,” Tuberville told Fox News. “He blinked. And [Schumer] knows now. … We taught Schumer how to go back to the floor and actually bring someone to the floor to vote and confirm them.”
Schumer’s office did not respond to The Daily Signal’s request for comment on this report.
Under questioning from Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Brown said he wouldn’t allow the military to become political.
“The first thing I would do is set a personal example: I would remain nonpartisan, nonpolitical in how I approach the position of chairman if confirmed,” Brown told Ernst during his confirmation hearing. “And I would set that same expectation throughout the force: We need to stay out of politics and stay nonpartisan, nonpolitical.”
Ken McIntyre contributed to this report, which has been modified to identify the six senators who didn’t vote.
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