GOP Clash on Senate Floor Over Tuberville Block of Military Promotions

  • Republican senators tore into their GOP colleague Sen. Tommy Tuberville on Wednesday night.
  • They’d had enough of Tuberville’s months-long blockade of military promotions.
  • “There’s a reason this has not been done this way for a couple hundred years,” Sen. Lindsey Graham said at one point.

A handful of Senate Republicans on Wednesday evening tore into fellow Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville for hours, arguing that his blockade of more than 300 military promotions has damaged the US armed forces and risks serious long-term consequences.

“There’s a reason this has not been done this way for a couple hundred years, no matter whether you believe it or not, Sen. Tuberville this doing great damage to our military,” Republican Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina told Tuberville after one of his objections. “I don’t say that lightly, I’ve been trying to work with you for nine months. Folks, if this keeps going, people are gonna leave.”

Tuberville objected to just over 60 individual nominations over nearly 4 hours on the Senate floor as his colleagues continued to force him to reject their efforts to approve the promotions, leaving the senators with little to show for their efforts besides more anger.

Historically speaking, military promotions have sailed through the Senate while lawmakers have used procedural hurdles to slow down political appointees. Wednesday night’s floor fight was based on Republican senators asking for Tuberville’s unanimous consent to expeditiously approve the promotions, which he has refused to grant for over nine months.

Tuberville, a former Auburn football coach, has argued that the Pentagon policy allowing for service members to take leave if they want to receive an abortion is illegal. The Alabama Republican has repeated his vow that he will not stop blocking promotions until the Biden administration changes its policy, which Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has vowed will not happen.

The Republican lawmakers made clear they did not support the Pentagon’s policy, but they made clear that their patience with their colleague has run out.

Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican and colonel in the US Marine Reserves, repeatedly called the opposition “idiotic” and stressed that Russian President Vladimir Putin and Chinese President Xi Jinping likely enjoyed watching the US military struggle.

Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa, who serves in the Senate GOP leadership, continued to drive home her perspective as a veteran — a potential jab at Tuberville, who did not serve in the nation’s armed forces.

“I served, Col. Dan Sullivan served, we understand the significance of service and being willing to lay down your life for a fellow countryman,” Ernst said. 

Tuberville has also said that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer can call nominees up for individual votes, which the top Senate Democrat has mostly resisted. Schumer previously said that forcing individual votes on the promotions would risk establishing a new precedent that would treat the nation’s servicemembers akin to Cabinet secretaries or federal judges. 

The floor fight came just days after Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine Corps chief, was hospitalized after he spent months filling both the No. 1 and No. 2 posts for the Marines amid Tuberville’s blockade. DOD officials blasted Tuberville’s actions to Politico in the wake of Smith’s reported health struggles.

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