Sen. Tommy Tuberville signals he may drop some holds on military nominees next week

Sen. Tommy Tuberville signals he may drop some holds on military nominees next week
Sen. Tommy Tuberville signals he may drop some holds on military nominees next week

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on Thursday signaled that he may drop some of his holds on hundreds of high-level military nominations “in the very near future.”

“Now we’re working towards getting — which I’ve been very much for — getting the promotions over with. We need to get them promoted,” Tuberville told reporters.

“I don’t know what they’re gonna do with the resolution,” he said, referring to a Democratic effort to bypass his holds. “But we’re going through all the people that are up for promotion.”

The Alabama senator didn’t specify how many promotions he would let through or which nominees he would block, but said he wants to get as many people as possible through “in the next week or so” and won’t decide based on “levels” of rankings.

“We will promote people in the very near future. I don’t know how many at one time. I’d like to get it done here in the next week or so.” Tuberville said.

Tuberville has faced backlash from members of his own party, as well as Democrats and the White House, who say that his blockade poses threats to the military’s preparedness. Senate Democrats and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona crafted a resolution this month that would use a temporary process change in an effort to bypass Tuberville’s ongoing blockade.

Tuberville said he’s aware Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in floor remarks Thursday that he will go through with a resolution to bypass the Republican senator’s holds, but told reporters that he doubts the bill has enough votes to pass.

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“I’m not gonna be pushed and shoved and hurried on this because we’ve taken our time with it. We’ve done it the right way. And at the end of the day, I know these people, you know, need to be promoted,” Tuberville said. “They have not done anything wrong. But it’s the only way that we’ve been able to get the attention of the Democrats.”

Tuberville’s blockade has held up at least 350 military nominees thus far. He said his move is in protest of a Defense Department policy that allows time off and reimbursements for service members and their family members seeking abortions out of state.

Tuberville on Thursday also said that language to change the Defense Department’s abortion travel policy was stripped from the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual must-pass defense policy bill, one of the possible resolutions to his blockade he said he was counting on. Without the NDAA, Tuberville indicated that his next step may be to drop some of his holds.

The Pentagon abortion policy has sparked debate among congressional lawmakers and has emerged as a major focal point of negotiations on the NDAA. The GOP-led House passed its version of the legislation in July after adding an amendment that would force the Defense Department to rescind the policy. However, the Democratic-led Senate passed its own version of the NDAA weeks later, after it averted floor votes on amendments related to abortion access and transgender health care in the military.

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Tuberville and some Republicans have argued that Schumer could instead call each of the hundreds of military nominations in limbo for individual votes — a process that could take up hundreds of hours of floor time for each vote.

The Senate in September confirmed its first military nominees in months using that tactic — Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the nation’s top military officer; Gen. Randy George as Army chief of staff; and Gen. Eric Smith as commandant of the Marine Corps.

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