Senate confirms Milley as Joint Chiefs chairman

Senate confirms Milley as Joint Chiefs chairman
© Aaron Schwartz

The Senate easily confirmed Gen. Mark Milley on Thursday to be the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, filling a key role at a time of global turmoil.

The Senate voted 89-1 to confirm Milley as the top general in the country. Sen. Jeff MerkleyJeffrey (Jeff) Alan MerkleyDemocrats urge Rick Perry not to roll back lightbulb efficiency rules Democratic senator on Trump's 'treason' comments about whistleblower: 'I worry about threats on his or her life' Overnight Energy: Lawmakers show irritation over withheld Interior documents | Republican offers bipartisan carbon tax bill | Scientists booted from EPA panel form new group MORE (D-Ore.) was the lone "no" vote.

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Milley will succeed Gen. Joseph Dunford, whose term as chairman wraps at the end of September.

"I am humbled and honored to be confirmed as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff," Milley said in a statement Thursday. "Thank you to the president and the Senate for their confidence. I have been privileged to serve as chief of staff of the Army these last four years and look forward to the opportunity to continue working alongside the soldiers, sailors, airmen, Marines, Dept. of Defense civilians and families serving our nation's military."

Milley has served as chief of staff of the Army since 2015 and will step into the new role as President TrumpDonald John TrumpWHCA calls on Trump to denounce video depicting him shooting media outlets Video of fake Trump shooting members of media shown at his Miami resort: report Trump hits Fox News's Chris Wallace over Ukraine coverage MORE's top military adviser at a time when U.S.-Iran tensions threaten to boil over into military conflict.

He also represents a steady hand as the Pentagon faces a high number of vacancies.

Milley's confirmation comes days after Defense Secretary Mark EsperMark EsperFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Democrats to offer resolution demanding Trump reverse Syria decision Army officer calls Syria pullback 'a stain on the American conscience' MORE was confirmed and sworn in, helping end a leadership vacuum at the Pentagon after an unprecedented period of more than six months without a Senate-confirmed Defense secretary.

Several other top civilian posts remain unfilled, including deputy Defense secretary, Army secretary and Air Force secretary.

The deputy position is close to being filled, after the Senate Armed Services Committee advanced David Norquist's nomination on Thursday. Earlier in the day, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnellAddison (Mitch) Mitchell McConnellFurious Republicans prepare to rebuke Trump on Syria Republicans wrestle with impeachment strategy Mattis warns 'ISIS will resurge' without U.S. pressure on Syria MORE (R-Ky.) listed Norquist's nomination as one of the Senate's to-do items before leaving for the August recess next week.

But the fate of Milley's potential vice chairman remains unsettled, even as vice chairman Gen. Paul Selva is set to retire at the end of July.

Gen. John Hyten, the nominee to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, has been accused of sexual assault by a female officer.

An Air Force investigation cleared Hyten of the allegations, but the issue stalled his nomination.

The Senate Armed Services Committee interviewed Hyten behind closed doors Thursday, after doing the same with Hyten's accuser earlier this week. Committee Chairman James InhofeJames (Jim) Mountain InhofeThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump declares 'case closed' as text messages raise new questions Top House Democrat: Trump did 'on camera' what Romney warned about GOP senators attack whistleblower's credibility MORE (R-Okla.) said after the meeting Thursday the panel will proceed with having an open confirmation hearing for Hyten.

Updated at 3:14 p.m.