Senate Republicans lead effort to bypass Sen. Tuberville's hold on military promotions in opposition to Pentagon abortion policy

November 3, 2023
Ben Marquis

For several months now, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) has blocked the en masse confirmation of hundreds of pending high-level military officer promotions in protest against a Pentagon policy that seemingly violates federal law by allowing taxpayer funds to pay for abortion procedures for service members.

Tuberville's hold was overcome Thursday for a small handful of the most senior military promotions after several Senate Republicans sharply criticized their colleague and forced individual confirmation votes, according to the Washington Examiner.

The Alabama senator's blockade against mass confirmation remains in place for now, though, so long as the Pentagon's abortion policy remains in place, though he has always stated and continues to state that he will not stop individual promotions from being voted on by the full Senate chamber one-by-one.

Group of Senate Republicans bash one of their own over principled stand

Fox News reported that Sen. Tuberville's hold on the mass confirmation of military promotions has been in effect for nine months, much to the consternation and complaining of the Pentagon and White House, due to a policy that allows taxpayer funds to reimburse service members for the costs to travel out of state to obtain an abortion.

That hold was at least partially disrupted Thursday when several defense hawk Republicans -- Sens. Todd Young, (IN), Mitt Romney, (UT), Joni Ernst, (IA), Lindsey Graham, (SC), and Dan Sullivan, R-(AK) -- each took to the Senate floor to lambast their pro-life colleague for, in essence, holding military officers "hostage" and denying them earned promotions over a policy disagreement they had little or nothing to do with.

"This is about the rule of law," Tuberville said in defense of his ongoing hold. "That's what we're about in here. It's about the integrity of our military. It's about keeping politics out of military. I did not put it in the military, Joe Biden and Secretary Austin put politics in the military, and it's about the right to life."

Given Tuberville's refusal to grant unanimous consent to more than 350 pending promotions, the Senate Republicans who had grown tired of the hold-up then began to bring some of the most senior promotions to the floor for individual confirmation votes -- something that Tuberville from the start has said repeatedly that he had no problem with.

Sec. Austin heralds limited confirmations, demands more pending promotions be approved

"I am glad the Senate has today confirmed Adm. Lisa Franchetti as Chief of Naval Operations, Gen. David Allvin as Chief of Staff of the Air Force, and Lt. Gen. Chris Mahoney as Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps," Defense Sec. Lloyd Austin said in a statement. "They are outstanding leaders who have faithfully served their country for decades, and I know they will continue to be great leaders of our force as they continue to tackle the crucial national security issues of these challenging times."

"But we still have more than 370 superbly qualified leaders who have seen their nominations unnecessarily stalled. As we face a variety of urgent challenges, the most powerful fighting force in history must be at full-strength," he continued. "This unprecedented delay in confirming our military’s top leaders has hurt our military’s readiness and unnecessarily weighed down our military families, who already give up so much to support those who serve."

"While today’s vote is a step forward, we continue to urge the Senate to take swift action on the remaining nominations so that these American heroes can lead our team in keeping our country safe," the secretary added.

Senate Democrats working to bypass Tuberville's blockade

Meanwhile, as some of Sen. Tuberville's Republican colleagues raged at him on the Senate floor for continuing to block the mass confirmation of military promotions over his dispute with the Pentagon's abortion policy, NBC News reported that Senate Democrats are working on an effort to try to sidestep Tuberville's blockade altogether.

A resolution has been crafted that would, in essence, temporarily suspend certain Senate rules and allow for most military promotions to be confirmed in a large block by a simple majority vote rather than be addressed individually or, as had previously been the case before Tuberville's hold, a declaration of unanimous consent without any objections.

However, that resolution must first make it through the Senate Rules Committee and then receive 60 votes on the floor, which would require at least nine Republicans to join with all 51 Democrats and independents to take effect.

Tuberville, during the hours-long standoff against some of his own fellow Republicans on Thursday, once more reiterated the position he has held for months, and said, "If senators want to vote on these nominees one by one, I’m all in. I’m happy to do that. But I will keep my hold in place until the Pentagon follows the law or the Democrats change the law."

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