Tuberville pressured by Republicans on floor to end military nominations hold

A group of Republican senators went to the Senate floor Wednesday night to push Alabama GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville to drop his hold on more than 370 military nominations.

For more than four hours, Republican Senators Dan Sullivan, Joni Ernst, Lindsey Graham, Mitt Romney and Todd Young spoke on the floor to ask for unanimous consent to confirm military nominations by voice vote, one nomination at a time. They argued with Tuberville. They pleaded with him. They upbraided him — and they spoke at length about the people whose nominations he was blocking.

As each nominee was put forward for a unanimous consent vote, the presiding officer asked, “Is there objection?”

And every time, Tuberville answered, “I object.”

Tuberville has been stopping the Senate from approving military nominations en masse for months to protest a Pentagon policy that pays for travel expenses for service members who must leave the state to obtain an abortion and other reproductive care.

After Tuberville objected to a motion by Graham that included the nominee to be deputy commander of the Pacific Air Forces Laura Lenderman, Graham fired back at Tuberville: “You’ve just denied this lady a promotion. You did that. All of us are ready to promote her because she deserves to be promoted. She had nothing to do with this policy.”

Graham went on to say that Tuberville’s holds are impacting the military. “No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military,” Graham said. “I don’t say that lightly. I have been trying to work with you for nine months.”

Romney argued that senators ought to be careful with the power they have to block confirmations.

“This power is extraordinary that we’re given as individual senators, but it’s incumbent upon us to use it in a reasonable way and not to abuse it in such a way that we end up putting in harm’s way the capabilities of our military and the well-being of our men and women in uniform,” he said.

Romney added that he agreed that the Pentagon policy runs afoul of the Hyde Amendment, which says that government funding cannot be used for abortions. But he said the way to counter the policy is through the courts. He also proposed a workaround that would allow private charities to fund abortions out of state for service members.

Tuberville has said he does not oppose voting for nominations individually, but objected to each individual nomination Wednesday.

“We have done the best that we can to honor the request of a fellow senator that these nominations be brought to the floor and voted on individually. And I really respect men of their word,” Ernst said. “I do not respect men who do not honor their word. We have brought forward nearly 60 nominees.”

Tuberville blocked 61 nominations on the floor Wednesday evening, Sullivan said.

The Alabama senator argues the Pentagon is funding abortions and says he will continue to stop the Senate from bloc confirmations of military promotions until the department changes its policy.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer filed cloture on three top nominations on Tuesday, setting up a potential vote for Thursday. Those votes include the nominees to head the Navy, the Air Force, and No. 2 at the Marine Corps.

The push for confirming the No. 2 at the Marine Corps comes as the head of the Marine Corps Gen. Eric Smith remains in the hospital due to a medical emergency. Because the Senate has not confirmed an assistant commandant, the Marine Corps is currently being led by the next senior officer who is a three-star general.

If the nominees for the head of the Air Force and Navy are confirmed, it will mark the first time the joint chiefs of staff will have a Senate-confirmed leader for every military service branch since July.

The Senate has circumvented Tuberville’s hold in a limited way by voting individually on a handful of key nominees in the past few months, but to do this for the over 370 flag and general officer nominations still pending would take the Senate weeks to complete.

The hold is now impacting leadership positions in the Middle East where a conflict between Israel and Hamas has been intensifying. The U.S. has deployed more than 1,200 troops to the region in case the conflict in Israel spreads and to protect U.S. forces in Iraq and Syria that have come under attack 28 times in less than a month.

Some of the key nominations for positions in the Middle East include the commander of the Navy’s 5th fleet and the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command.

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