WASHINGTON – A Senate panel approved the nominations Tuesday of two top military commanders to carry out President Bush's new strategy for the war in Iraq.
The nominations of Navy Adm. William Fallon as head of U.S. Central Command, the top U.S. commander in the Middle East, and Army Gen. George Casey as Army chief of staff now head to the Senate floor for confirmation.
The Senate Armed Services Committee voted 16-0 for Fallon and 14-3 for Casey. They are expected to win easy confirmation in the full Senate.
The panel's approval of the nominations marks the third time that Senate committees with oversight of the Iraq war have strongly supported elevating commanding officers who helped create the new Iraq strategy, which includes sending an additional 21,500 U.S. combat forces to Iraq.
Three Republicans, Sens. John McCain of Arizona, Saxby Chambliss of Georgia and John Ensign of Nevada, opposed Casey's elevation. McCain told Casey at his confirmation hearing that the general had been too optimistic about the training of Iraqi forces and the progress that U.S. and multinational forces were making against insurgents.
Casey retired from his command in January and replaced by Army Lt. Gen. David Petreaus. The Senate unanimously confirmed Petreaus as commander of multinational forces in Iraq.
Fallon currently serves as commander of U.S. forces in the Pacific. If confirmed to head the Central Command, he would replace Army Gen. John Abizaid.
The Central Command oversees U.S. military operations and relations in 27 countries from the Horn of Africa, through the Middle East to Central Asia, including Afghanistan and Pakistan.
FOX News' Major Garrett contributed to this report.