Attention is turned to a resolution to circumvent Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s objections after his GOP colleagues staged a dramatic confrontation on the Senate floor.
Leading Senate Democrats are teasing a new path forward to bypass one senator’s blockade of military promotions, leaning on GOP frustrations that bubbled to the surface this week and culminated in a dramatic confrontation from members of the senator’s own party.
A group of Republican senators took to the Senate floor late Wednesday to attempt to circumvent a dispute in which Sen. Tommy Tuberville has single-handedly held up more than 300 military promotions over a Pentagon abortion travel policy. The stunning scene comes nine months into the blockade and as Democrats – and more recently fellow Republicans – have grown anxious to move the military promotions forward.
While any single senator has the right to impose a hold on a nomination – and it has been invoked for political purposes in the past – a growing chorus of lawmakers from both parties is saying Tuberville is abusing the authority with his blanket hold on military promotions. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said that both Democrats and Republicans had “tried to reason with the senator from Alabama,” but “at every step he’s refused to cooperate.”
“These holds must not continue,” Schumer said Thursday morning. “We’ll work to move this resolution, and I hope to see bipartisan support, so we can finally get these hundreds of nominees appointed to their posts.”
Now attention is turned to a resolution, organized by Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona and Sen. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, which would temporarily change the process. Currently, the Senate could move to approve the nominees on an individual basis, but the process is cumbersome and would take months to address the backlog. The Democratic proposal would allow for the nominees to be voted on all at once, letting the chamber more quickly approve the promotions that Tuberville has slowed with his opposition. It would require the support of all Democrats and independents and at least nine Republicans.
Tuberville, like many of his GOP colleagues, staunchly opposes the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which allows servicewomen stationed in states where abortion is restricted to take time off and be reimbursed for travel expenses for the procedure. But especially amid Hamas’ attack on Israel, senators have grown agitated over his tactic, which they say threatens military readiness and unfairly punishes service members, prompting the group of senators to try to individually confirm 61 promotions. Still, over the course of four hours on Wednesday, Tuberville objected to each.
The showing threw the path forward into question, as Tuberville has maintained for months that if the chamber wants to work around his hold, they should approve nominees on an individual basis. But the former college football coach stunned his colleagues on Wednesday when he still objected, leaving them with few options for how to proceed.
“He was asking for an individual vote on the floor of the Senate. That’s what we gave him last night,” Sen. Joni Ernst told reporters on Thursday. “He objected to all 61 individual votes on the floor of the Senate. So I’m not sure what Sen. Tuberville wants now.”
Even with the frustration from fellow Republicans, whether the resolution, which has been billed by some lawmakers as a temporary rules change, can get the support of enough Republicans – who may see political peril in voting with Democrats to overcome Tuberville’s Pentagon protest – remains to be seen.
Ernst, one of the Republicans who led the floor standoff against Tuberville, told reporters on Thursday that Republicans are trying to “find any way we can to avoid a rules change in the United States Senate.”
“But I think we’re being forced into a position by Democrats, by Schumer, by the president, by DOD – if we want to keep our country safe, if we want to protect these innocent men and women who have served our country honorably … then we need to keep moving forward toward a solution,” the Iowa Republican said. “We all need to be part of that solution but I’m not willing to commit to a rules change, that’s the last thing we want to see.”
To be sure, the Republican defense hawks who led the floor standoff on Wednesday are not supportive of the Pentagon policy. They railed against the Biden administration while putting the blame partially on Senate leadership for failing to bring forward nominations on an individual basis. But they suggested that Tuberville should take his issue to the courts, rather than holding up the chamber and setting a dangerous precedent.
“If this becomes the norm that we hold up all military promotions we basically break down our military and exact a huge cost on the men and women who protect us,” Sen. Mitt Romney, Utah Republican, told reporters. “So this is the wrong vehicle to be using to change policy.”
But whether Republican opposition to Tuberville’s tactics is strong enough to propel the resolution to passage is unclear. Blumenthal, who worked on the legislation, tried to assure his colleagues on Thursday that the resolution “is narrowly tailored to fit this situation” and applies “only to this session for key positions in our military that are essential to confirm seeking to surmount the obstructionism that has gridlocked and paralyzed this body in moving forward.”
Even Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia, often a key holdout for Democrats, suggested that he would be supportive of the proposal.
“On something such as this, there has to be a way to move forward,” Manchin told reporters, saying that though he respects his colleagues’ ability to use their powers to have their voices heard, “this is a little much.”
But Tuberville has held firm, calling the Pentagon policy “illegal and immoral” while he disputed the criticism from his colleagues that his hold is affecting military readiness.
“The only thing in this world I honor more than the military is the Constitution,” Tuberville said. “We all swore to uphold the Constitution. I also feel very strongly about the obligation to uphold it every day in this room. I cannot simply sit idly by while the Biden administration injects politics in our military – again, injects politics in the military from the White House – and spends taxpayers’ dollars on abortion.”
Source: US News