Senate plots to break Tommy Tuberville’s hold on military nominees

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee advanced a resolution on Tuesday that would allow the Senate to override U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Alabama) nine-month hold on military promotions. Tuberville spoke at length with Alabama reporters on Wednesday about this development.

“What’s happening now, that I have been about nine or ten months of holds on admirals and generals – flag officers, the Democrats have said we are just going around Coach,” Sen. Tuberville said. “We are going to go to the Rules Committee (and) pass a new rule that we can go around him, and for the next year and a half, we won’t have holds from the minority part of the Senate. That will probably happen in maybe around the first of December. It did come out of committee. It did come out of the rules committee, so now they will have the vote in the next couple of weeks to go around me.”

Senate rules require 60 votes to change the rules, meaning that with a 51 to 49 split, Democrats need Republican support to pass the rule change.

“They have got to have nine Republicans,” Tuberville said. “I can’t imagine nine Republicans siding with the Democrats. Number one against pro-life. Number two against executive overreach and then siding with the Democrats on anything because they don’t side with us on anything.”

The resolution was led by Democratic Sen. Jack Reed of Rhode Island and independent Sen. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona. The rule would temporarily change the process, allowing for the nominees to be approved en masse, letting the chamber more quickly vote on the promotions that Tuberville has slowed with his opposition. It would require the support of all Democrats and independents and at least nine Republicans. Several GOP Senators have expressed their frustrations with Tuberville over this publicly. It remains to be seen if there are nine of them willing to stand with Democrats and risk backlash from the pro-life movement over it to pass the rule change.

Several Republican Senators have become frustrated with Tuberville’s intransigence on this and have spent hours on the Senate floor criticizing him on this topic – hours that could have been spent confirming military promotions simply by bringing a petition to override Democratic Minority Leader Chuck Schumer’s (D-New York) stranglehold on the Senate calendar.

Tuberville said he has had no assurances from his Republican colleagues that they will not cross over and vote with Democrats on this rule change.

“I have not been assured,” Tuberville said. “I think there is going to be some people on the Republican side that say that we need to get this over with and not hold up these promotions. We don’t need to do that because it is not affecting readiness at all. I do have a couple of things that I am working on maybe to avoid this to get this over with before a vote happens. Right now, the Republican Party is going to have to decide whether they are going to be pro-life or vote for this resolution to pass to go around me. It is disturbing sometimes. I am not establishment. I vote for the people of Alabama, and I hope the rest of our delegation would vote for their state, and if they did that, they would vote against the Democrats.”

One reporter asked if Tuberville’s holds were pro-life versus the military. Sen. Tuberville objected to that verbiage.

“These holds are not pro-life versus military,” Tuberville answered. “The Republicans – all Republicans – we’re pro-life, and we’re also for the military. The Democrats are not for either. They are definitely not for the life of the unborn, and they really don’t support the military like Republicans do, so let’s go down that avenue.”

Tuberville remains staunchly opposed to the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which allows servicemembers and their families stationed in states where abortion is restricted to take time off and be reimbursed for travel expenses for the procedure. Critics say his tactic of holding up the promotions threatens military readiness and unfairly punishes service members.

“I am doing what is right for the people of Alabama and the American people, and hopefully my Republican colleagues stick with me on that,” Tuberville concluded.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Kentucky) and every other Republican on the committee voted against the resolution, though they have told reporters that they are still trying to find a solution with Tuberville.

The body could bring the nominations as part of regular order as the Founders intended, or the Defense Department could reverse the controversial policy change prompting Tuberville’s hold in the first place. Democrats are unwilling to compromise on either point and have rejected a plan in the Republican-controlled House of Representatives’ version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would override the Defense Department policy that created this conflict.

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