Sen. Tommy Tuberville announced on Tuesday that he’s ending his blockade of hundreds of military promotions, following heavy criticism from many of his colleagues in the Senate and clearing the way for hundreds to be approved soon.
Tuberville’s blockade of military promotions was over a dispute about a Pentagon abortion policy. The Alabama Republican said Tuesday he’s “not going to hold the promotions of these people any longer.” He said holds would continue, however, for about 11 of the highest-ranking military officers, those who would be promoted to what he described as the 4-star level or above.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said a vote on the nominations could come quickly, possibly even in the afternoon.
There were 451 military officers affected by the holds as of Nov. 27. It’s a stance that has left key national security positions unfilled and military families with an uncertain path forward.
Tuberville was blocking the nominations in opposition to new Pentagon rules that allow travel reimbursement when a service member has to go out of state to get an abortion or other reproductive care. President Joe Biden’s administration instituted the new rules after the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to an abortion, and some states have limited or banned the procedure.
“Well, certainly we’re encouraged by the news,” Pentagon spokesman Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder said at a briefing Tuesday. “We continue to stay engaged with Senator Tuberville in the Senate directly, to urge that all holds on all our general flag officer nominations be lifted.”
Critics said that Tuberville’s ire was misplaced and that he was blocking the promotions of people who had nothing to do with the policy he opposed.
“Why are we punishing American heroes who have nothing to with the dispute?” said Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska. “Remember we are against the Biden abortion travel policy, but why are we punishing people who have nothing to do with the dispute and if they get confirmed can’t fix it? No one has had an answer for that question because there is no answer.”
In response to the holds, Democrats had teed up a resolution that would allow the Senate to confirm groups of military nominees at once during the remainder of the congressional term, but Republicans worried that the change could erode the powers of the minority in the Senate.
Tuberville emerged from a closed-door luncheon with his GOP colleagues, saying “all of us are against a rule change in the Senate.” He was adamant that “we did the right thing for the unborn and for our military” by fighting back against executive overreach. He expressed no regrets but admitted he fell short in his effort.
“The only opportunity you got to get the people on the left up here to listen to you in the minority is to put a hold on something, and that’s what we did,” Tuberville said. “We didn’t get the win that we wanted. We’ve still got a bad policy.”
Associated Press writer Lolita C. Baldor contributed to this report.