General David Berger stepped down as commandant of the US Marine Corps on Monday. The Marines are now without a confirmed leader for the first time in a century as a Republican senator is blocking the approval of his successor.
General Eric Smith, currently the assistant commandant has been nominated to be the next leader. But, he will serve in an acting capacity as he is yet to be confirmed by the Senate. Berger, who took over as the 38th commandant in July 2019, is required to step down after four years.
As per law, Smith can serve as commandant, but, cannot do anything that would presume confirmation. He does have the authority to implement new policies such as budget, training and other personnel decisions.
Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, in protest of a Pentagon abortion policy, is blocking senior military nominations. Tuberville disagrees with Austin's decision to have the defence department pay for travel when a service member has to go out of state to get an abortion or other reproductive care. Abortion is illegal in Alabama.
"I know that everyone here is looking forward to the rapid confirmation of a distinguished successor to Gen. Berger," Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin told ABC News on Monday.