Back Pay for Officers Caught in Tuberville Hold Gets Momentum in House, But Guard Bonuses Still Uncertain

Sen. Tommy Tuberville walks through Capitol Hill
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., walks through Capitol Hill on Thursday, Sept. 21, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Mark Schiefelbein)

The effort by Congress to provide back pay to high-ranking officers whose promotions were delayed for months by Sen. Tommy Tuberville's hold has moved to the House, with a new bill filed Wednesday night.

The House bill mirrors bipartisan legislation unveiled on the Senate floor on Dec. 7 and would pay hundreds of officers who waited for the better part of year for the Senate to approve their promotions and new paygrades. Tuberville, who single-handedly blocked the approvals over a Pentagon abortion policy, finally relented last week, and the Senate quickly promoted 425 service members.

"For months, our officers were left waiting for promotions while Sen. Tuberville used them to pressure the Pentagon to follow his extreme position on abortion," Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., one of the members who introduced the bill, said in a statement. "Military personnel should not be pawns for partisan officials. That's why I'm proud to lead this bipartisan bill to ensure our military leaders are not deprived of the benefits they deserve."

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The bill, known as the Military Personnel Confirmation Restoration Act of 2023, was also introduced by Rep. Don Bacon, R-Neb., and would offer back pay, retroactive promotion dates and other administrative solutions to military officers whose promotions were delayed.

If passed, it would get the officers' pay retroactively raised up to 30 days after they were first nominated and apply time credit to other benefits, such as retirement pay. Traditionally, officers who need Senate confirmation receive a pay raise only after they receive Senate approval, meaning thousands of dollars were lost out on while their nominations were put on hold.

Gallego told in an interview that he was confident the bill would quickly pass through Congress.

"When you have support from Senate Republicans, Senate Democrats, House Republicans and House Democrats, I think this is a bill that is going to have proper support, and it's more likely to move in a faster manner," he said.

The Senate version of the bill was sponsored by Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., both members of the Senate Armed Services Committee, in addition to Tuberville, who also sits on the committee.

In a statement made Dec. 5, Tuberville, R-Ala., announced that he was largely ending his hold on general and flag officer nominees awaiting Senate confirmation, first implemented in protest of the Pentagon's policy that provides travel reimbursements to service members seeking abortions from civilian providers.

The Senate has since cleared more than 400 nominees from the backlog in the last two weeks, although dozens are still waiting to be promoted, including 12 four-star nominees.

The Senate version of the bill was "hotlined" late Wednesday night, meaning it could bypass regular chamber procedures and be passed quicker if it receives a unanimous vote.

Meanwhile, Gallego doesn't quite hold the same hope for back-pay issues facing thousands of Army National Guard soldiers.

A report published by in October revealed that more than 9,000 National Guardsmen have been waiting years for incentive bonuses, largely thanks to an unreliable management system. This includes an additional 3,900 soldiers who completed their service and left the military without getting any bonus payments, potentially having since lost eligibility.

Gallego; Mike Waltz, R-Fla.; and Trent Kelly, R-Miss., all military veterans themselves, questioned the actions of the Guard's handling of incentives in a Nov. 15 letter to top brass, further demanding the status of incentive oversight teams, what the National Guard is doing to address the backlog, and why the Guard does not currently have a policy covering the payout of incentives.

This is about "different types of money, and different causes," Gallego told regarding the ability to secure belatedly promoted officers their benefits versus the Guardsmen.

The hold on officer promotions was "clearly a political stunt done by one extreme senator and a bunch of senators that were in support, whether quietly or overtly," Gallego said. "And while it does point to a lot of problems within the National Guard and their back-pay issue, we should not be withholding money from the military for political reasons and political hostage-taking."

No statement was given to in November regarding the Guard's reaction to the letter or when the pay issues would be fixed.

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