GOP senators push back but can’t get past Tuberville on military blockade - Living Strong Television Network
GOP senators push back but can’t get past Tuberville on military blockade

Republican senators pushed to confirm more than 60 military nominees Wednesday evening in a direct challenge to fellow GOP member Tommy Tuberville and his blockade on promotions — but the Alabama senator is refusing to budge.

The move led by Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska marks the most significant confrontation to Tuberville so far within the GOP as more Republicans turn against the former college football coach and show they’re ready to resist him publicly.

Tuberville has opposed swiftly confirming hundreds of officers in a bid to force the Pentagon to overturn its policy of covering the costs for troops to travel to seek an abortion.

Sullivan, joined by Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and Mitt Romney of Utah, requested votes on each senior officer by unanimous consent, over several hours.

But the rare Republican-on-Republican clash saw Tuberville block each of his colleagues’ requests.

On the floor, Sullivan noted his opposition to the Pentagon’s abortion policies, calling himself “as pro-life as they come,” and touted his work with Tuberville to try to find an offramp to the standoff. But he said Tuberville’s tactics are hamstringing the military at a tenuous time in the world.

“The idea that some of these officers are supposedly woke or desk jockeys, it’s ridiculous,” Sullivan said. He called the holdup “a national security suicide mission.”

As the group wrapped up late Wednesday night, Sullivan’s message to military officers waiting months for confirmation was: “Hang in there.”

“We’ll be coming here every night to try to get you confirmed,” Sullivan said.

During the lengthy floor fight Wednesday, Sullivan or one of his colleagues would call up each nominee by name — 61 in all — extolling their qualifications and, finally, ask for consent to vote to confirm them. Sullivan noted several times that Tuberville had previously said he’d agree to votes on individual nominees.

But Tuberville wouldn’t back down, saying the Pentagon must repeal its policy before he drops his hold. He rebuffed arguments from his fellow GOP senators that he’s hurting military readiness amid several crises, including Russia’s invasion of Ukraine and Israel’s war against Hamas.

“I have to respectfully disagree with my colleagues about the effect of my hold on readiness. My hold is not affecting readiness,” Tuberville said.

Sullivan shot back that Tuberville’s argument that readiness isn’t impacted is “100 percent wrong.”

“We have a really dangerous world, a really dangerous world right now,” Sullivan said. “And to say, ‘Oh, don’t worry, this isn’t impacting readiness,’ with all due respect to my colleague, that’s just wrong. It’s not even a close call.”

Graham, a retired Air Force Reserve officer, dinged Tuberville for delaying officers whom he said had no involvement in the Pentagon’s abortion policy and warned his tactics would “wreck the military promotion system” if it becomes the norm in the Senate.

“No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military,” Graham told him. “I have been trying to work with you for nine months.”

“Folks, if this keeps going, people are going to leave,” he warned.

Ernst decried the tactics, arguing troops are being used as “political pawns.” Romney added that both Tuberville and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have staked out “intractable positions” on abortion and said the hold was “an abuse of the powers we have as senators.”

The nominees they sought to confirm included: Air Force Gen. Kenneth Wilsbach to lead Air Combat Command; Lt. Gen. James Mingus to be Army vice chief of staff; Air Force Maj. Gen. Heath Collins for director of the Missile Defense Agency; Navy Rear Adm. George Wikoff, picked to be the next commander of naval forces in the Middle East; Maj. Gen. Laura Lenderman to be deputy commander of the Pacific Air Forces; Maj. Gen. John Brennan to be the next deputy commander at U.S. Africa Command; and Vice Adm. Brad Cooper to be the deputy commander of U.S. Central Command.

Prior to Wednesday’s melee, several top Republicans had voiced dissatisfaction with Tuberville’s tactics, including Minority Leader Mitch McConnell.

Sullivan addressed the hold during Senate Republicans’ party lunches Tuesday and Wednesday, he said in an interview. He and other defense hawks discussed the compounding effect of the hold on military readiness, and he emphasized that the officers being delayed have nothing to do with making policy.

Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) is separately pursuing a resolution that would allow most military promotions to be grouped together in a single vote. That legislation","link":{"target":"NEW","attributes":[],"url":"https://legislation.politicopro.com/bill/US_118_SRES_444","_id":"0000018b-8e77-df32-a7ef-8f7f740c0000","_type":"33ac701a-72c1-316a-a3a5-13918cf384df"},"_id":"0000018b-8e77-df32-a7ef-8f7f740c0001","_type":"02ec1f82-5e56-3b8c-af6e-6fc7c8772266"}”>That legislation would require 60 votes to take effect, meaning at least nine Republicans would need to support it.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the recent hospitalization of Marine Commandant Gen. Eric Smith shows the need to resolve the hold: Smith’s No. 2 has been held up by Tuberville.

“Patience is wearing thin with Sen. Tuberville on both sides of the aisle,” Schumer told reporters. “What happened with the Marine commandant just showed many people how dangerous what Tuberville is doing is.”

Sullivan has separately pushed to confirm several Joint Chiefs nominees during Tuberville’s blanket hold.

Schumer lined up votes to confirm the final two pending Joint Chiefs nominees after Sullivan circulated cloture petitions, in an effort to force Schumer’s hand.

Burgess Everett contributed to this report.

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