(The Hill) – A group of Senate Republicans attempted to overcome Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) blockade of more than 370 military nominations, marking the first time GOP members have attempted a maneuver of this kind.
Led by Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Senate Republicans sought to move numerous promotions for military officers but were blocked by Tuberville as part of his holds that have lasted nearly eight months over the Pentagon’s year-old policy that covers travel expenses for military personnel who travel for abortion care.
Sullivan, joined by Sens. Joni Ernst (Iowa), Lindsey Graham (S.C.) and Todd Young (Ind.), brought 61 nominees forward for more than four hours, speaking relentlessly in support of each one.
“America needs to have our best players, most combat-capable leaders, on the field. And right now, that’s not happening. It needs to change,” Sullivan, a 30-year member of the Marine Corps, said on the floor, adding that 89 percent of all general officer positions in the military will be affected by the current holds by the end of the year.
The Alaska Republican added that the holds are “hugely disruptive to readiness” and that the military has a “huge readiness and retention problem,” saying that “these holds are not helping.”
“There is growing bitterness within the ranks of our military driven by this fact,” Sullivan said. “The men and women in the military who’ve served our country so well for decades … have made huge sacrifices, multiple deployments, now their careers are being punished over a policy dispute that they had nothing to do with and no power to resolve.”
“The idea that somehow some of these officers are woke and desk jockeys is ridiculous,” he added.
The group grew more frustrated by the nominee as Tuberville continued to object. At one point, Sullivan said that Chinese President Xi Jinping and Russian President Vladimir Putin are “loving this” exercise, adding: “How dumb can we be, man?”
Ernst in particular took umbrage to Tuberville’s repeated claim that he wanted to go through each nominee one by one and hold individual votes on them, saying that the group was doing just that.
“I anticipated a man of his word would honor his word. We haven’t heard an explanation. But I’ll tell you, this was not time wasted tonight. I will do this all over again,” she said. “We have done the best we can to honor the request of a fellow senator that these nominations be brought to the floor and voted on individually. I really respect men of their word. I do not respect men who do not honor their word.”
Sullivan said in closing that Wednesday night represented a “frustration moment” and that he still remained hopeful they could figure out a way to break the holds.
“My message to our generals and admirals who are being held up: Hang in there. Some of us have your back. We have your back. We’ll be coming here every night to get you confirmed,” Sullivan added.
Throughout that eight-month stretch, Tuberville has been a constant thorn in the side of members of both parties who have attempted to find an offramp, only to be stymied at every turn. However, the pressure has been ramped up in recent weeks after Hamas’s attack on Israel and increasing questions about readiness in concerning parts of the world.
“If this is the norm, who the hell wants to serve in the military when your promotion can be canned based on something you had nothing to do with?” Graham told Tuberville on the floor. “If this gets to be normal, god help the military because everyone of us could find some reason to object to policy.”
The former Auburn University football coach has maintained that he will only release his holds when the Pentagon relents on its policy and the Senate votes up or down on it — a point that he reiterated Wednesday night.
“This is a policy that is illegal and immoral,” Tuberville said. “I support many of these nominees, and I agree that these are very important jobs, but we could have been voting on these nominees the entire nine months. … I’m going to keep my holds in place. If senators want to vote on these nominees one by one, I’m all in.”
Tuberville also complained that no Biden administration official, including Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, has reached out to negotiate a resolution. When Romney mentioned the idea of starting a private charity to cover travel expenses for those seeking abortion care in place of the Pentagon’s policy, Tuberville said he would consider it as a starting point.
The move has also prompted a larger one by Democrats, who will try in the coming days to advance a bloc of more than 300 nonpolitical military nominees through the end of 2024 via a standing order resolution. The resolution would include an exception for officers nominated to a position on the Joint Chiefs of Staff or to lead a combatant command.
“Patience is wearing thin … on both sides of the aisle,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) told reporters shortly before the floor effort.
“We’ll see,” Schumer added when asked when he will move on the resolution.
Sullivan, a member of the Marine Corps, previously sought to move on the Marine Corps Commandant nomination prior to the August recess, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) warded off the effort.
Overall, senators have moved at least a dozen times to advance nominees via unanimous consent, all of which were attempted by Democrats before Wednesday.
The Senate on Thursday is expected to act on three individual nominations, including two positions of the Joint Chiefs: Lisa Franchetti and David Allvin to become chief of naval operations and Air Force chief of staff, respectively.
Senators will also vote on Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney to become assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, a post that became of immediate concern after Marine Commandant Eric Smith was hospitalized Monday.