The Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) said July 31 that it had voted to favorably report Air Force Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to become the next vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff out of committee.

The commander of U.S. Strategic Command, Air Force Gen. John E. Hyten, appears at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on his nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Washington, D.C., July 30, 2019. (DoD photo by Lisa Ferdinando)

The committee voted 20-7 to report the U.S. Strategic Command commander’s nomination to the Senate for a floor vote consideration, after a fraught nomination hearing Tuesday where committee members questioned Hyten over reports of alleged sexual assault – while his accuser, Army Col. Kathryn Spletstoser, sat in the front row – as well as his leadership style and nuclear and space-related issues (Defense Daily, July 30).

Six Democrat committee members and one Republican voted against advancing his nomination. The Democrats include: Sens. Mazie Hirono (Hawaii), Tammy Duckworth (Ill.), Richard Blumenthal (Conn.), and Gary Peters (Mich.), as well as Sens. Kirsten Gillibrand (N.Y.) and Elizabeth Warren (Mass.) who reportedly voted by proxy while participating in the Democratic presidential primary debates in Detroit this week.

Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa) was the lone Republican vote against Hyten. A spokesperson for Ernst said in a Wednesday emailed statement that “Senator Ernst voted no on advancing the nomination of Gen. Hyten to be the second highest-ranking military officer in the US Armed Forces given his inability to address toxic leadership and exercise sound judgment while serving as STRATCOM Commander.”

Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, who has served as vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff since 2015, retired Wednesday after 39 years in the U.S. military. The Senate is scheduled to leave for its annual monthly recess Aug. 2, and a vote on Hyten’s confirmation is not expected until after the chamber returns Sept. 9, several Capitol Hill sources said.

Hyten is one of several nominations the Senate Armed Services Committee has been rushing to push through the upper chamber to help fill senior Pentagon leadership positions. The Senate confirmed via voice vote the nomination of Undersecretary of Defense/Comptroller David Norquist to become the next permanent deputy secretary of defense Tuesday evening, just over one week after it confirmed former Army Secretary Mark Esper to become the next secretary of defense. The Pentagon confirmed Wednesday that Norquist has been sworn in as the 34th deputy defense secretary.