The Senate Armed Services Committee on Wednesday advanced Gen. John Hyten’s nomination to be vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff to the Senate floor amid some opposition from senators concerned about sexual assault allegations launched against the four-star.
The committee’s endorsement of Hyten on a 20-7 vote in a closed-door session comes one day after his confirmation hearing, during which he defended himself against accusations made made by a former subordinate, Army Col. Kathryn A. Spletstoser.
Spletstoser, who sat just feet away from Hyten at Tuesday’s hearing, contends that the Air Force general made unwanted sexual advances on numerous occasions and harmed her career after she rebuffed him.
Hyten has maintained his innocence. On Tuesday, he won the backing of Arizona Republican Sen. Martha McSally, a former fighter pilot who earlier this year disclosed that a superior raped her while she was in the Air Force.
Senate Armed Service Chairman James M. Inhofe confirmed the committee’s action, saying there was a “very strong vote in favor of Hyten.”
Iowa Republican Joni Ernst told reporters she voted “no” on advancing the nomination.
On Tuesday, Ernst questioned Hyten’s leadership after he admitted that it took him “a while” to address the toxic leadership culture at U.S. Strategic Command, which he led, including failing to address complaints regarding Spletstoser’s workplace conduct.
It is unclear when the full Senate will consider Hyten’s nomination. The current vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, is set to retire Wednesday, meaning the position could be unfilled until the Senate returns in September.
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