Tuberville Hold on Military Promotions Faces Biggest Challenge as Democrats Rally to Change Senate Rules

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, member of the Senate Armed Services Committee
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, talks to reporters as he and other senators arrive at the chamber for votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Sept. 6, 2023. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

Democrats in the Senate are pressing ahead next week with a plan to get around a long-running hold by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on military promotions as the number of affected officers climbs.

On Monday, Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., announced that the Senate Rules Committee that she chairs will vote Nov. 14 on a resolution "to allow the Senate to break through Sen. Tuberville's blockade of military nominations on the Senate floor."

More than 450 military promotions are now on hold since Tuberville started his blockade in February. Although the resolution -- which aims to allow the Senate to vote on all the nominated promotions at once -- is likely to make it out of the Democrat-controlled committee, it is unclear whether it will pass the full Senate, where it will need Republican support to clear the 60-vote threshold.

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"Sen. Tuberville refuses to heed the warnings of our top military officials," Klobuchar said in her statement, before adding that Tuberville "refuses to even cooperate with members of his own party who have pleaded with him to lift this hold."

"This vote in the Rules Committee will allow us to finally move forward with military confirmations, filling critical positions and protecting our military readiness," the statement read.

Officials at the Pentagon have noted that the situation with the military continues to become more dire despite Tuberville relenting and allowing the Senate to confirm the top officers for the Navy and the Air Force, as well as the second-highest officer for the Marine Corps, last week. The Marine Corps confirmation was allowed through after the commandant, who was overworked due to a staffing shortage, suffered cardiac arrest.

"There are now 452 nominations which concern 448 general and flag officers, at the Senate for consideration and that are currently impacted by Sen. Tuberville's holds," Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh told reporters Tuesday.

"Some of the positions that are stalled for confirmation include the 5th Fleet commander, the deputy 5th Fleet commander, the defense attache to Israel, and the list goes on," Singh added, highlighting two Navy positions that oversee forces in the Middle East.

A senior defense official also told that the Pentagon has heard of at least one general who is opting to retire rather than wait for the hold to lift.

"We expect that more could come as many are tired of waiting for their promotion to go through," the official warned.

Last week, Singh said that the number of affected positions was at 378. She said the spike was due to the Pentagon having submitted more promotions to the Senate for consideration earlier this week.

Tuberville's tactic of withholding all promotions for the last nine months stems from what he says is an objection over the Defense Department's policies of offering time off and travel funds for troops seeking abortions and other reproductive care if they are not available in the state where they serve.

While the Pentagon and some senators have objected to the move from the start, the criticism has become louder in the last week -- especially from fellow Republicans -- following the "sudden cardiac arrest" of Marine Commandant Gen. Eric Smith.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, a Marine reservist, blasted Tuberville's actions on the Senate floor last Wednesday amid a Republican-led effort to push through 61 promotions.

"The men and women who've served our country so well for decades -- probably the most combat-experienced generation since World War II -- have made huge sacrifices, multiple deployments, and now their careers are being punished over a policy dispute they had nothing to do with and no power to resolve," Sullivan said.

"There is growing bitterness within the ranks of our military," he warned.

On Tuesday, The Associated Press reported that Tuberville met with his fellow Republican senators and emerged with a more conciliatory attitude on his position. After the meeting, the Alabama senator said that he would work with his colleagues on options and "hopefully we can start moving forward."

-- Konstantin Toropin can be reached at Follow him on X at @ktoropin.

Related: Senate Finally Confirms 3 Top Military Officers After Fellow Republicans Erupt in Anger over Tuberville Blockade

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