Tuberville lifts hold on military promotions

FILE - Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, talks to reporters as he and other senators arrive at the chamber for votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. Tuberville announced on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 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. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

FILE - Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, talks to reporters as he and other senators arrive at the chamber for votes, at the Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Sept. 6, 2023. Tuberville announced on Tuesday, Dec. 5, 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. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File) J. Scott Applewhite—AP

By LIZ GOODWIN and DAN LAMOTHE

The Washington Post

Published: 12-05-2023 6:32 PM

Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama announced Tuesday that he would lift his blanket hold on military promotions, ending a nearly 10-month standoff over a Biden administration abortion policy that made the former football coach the target of bipartisan ire.

“It’s been a long fight, we fought hard,” Tuberville said after announcing his decision to his colleagues at a closed-door lunch. “We just released them.”

The hold, which Tuberville began in February, applied to all senior military promotions, and hundreds of officers were caught up in its net. As officers increasingly complained of the toll on military readiness and morale, and with a war raging in the Middle East, Tuberville faced increasing pressure from his fellow Republicans to drop the hold.

He has now narrowed his hold to the 10 or so promotions at the four-star rank.

Tuberville said he relinquished his hold because he wanted to keep Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, D-N.Y., from bringing up a vote to get around his maneuver. He did not receive any concessions he previously demanded, such as a change to the military funding bill to address the abortion policy.

“We got all we could get,” he told reporters.

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The former football coach was left with few options after Schumer put forward a proposal that would allow the Senate to go around Tuberville’s holds, which had the Republican votes necessary to pass.

Tuberville’s hold led to a remarkably public confrontation with some of his GOP colleagues, who staged a late-night attempt to promote the officers he had blocked, forcing Tuberville to personally object to each one. Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Todd C. Young of Indiana and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, all veterans, implored Tuberville on the Senate floor to lift his hold for the sake of national security.

“No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military,” Graham said then. “I don’t say that lightly; I’ve been trying to work with you for nine months.”

Behind closed doors, Republicans complained that Tuberville’s blockade was hurting them politically as well, given the harm to the military and the focus on abortion, which has been a losing issue at the polls for the GOP in recent elections.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell took the rare step of publicly rebuking Tuberville, saying he should not be punishing “military heroes” for a Biden administration policy that provides travel for service members seeking an abortion who are stationed in states where abortion is illegal to states where it is legal.

Other Republican colleagues thought that Tuberville moved the goal posts of his demands, from initially just wanting a vote on the military abortion policy to demanding that it be rescinded altogether to allow promotions to go through.

For months, Tuberville said he wanted Schumer to do a full floor vote on each nominee to get around his hold, arguing that each one would enjoy bipartisan support and easily pass. But making it through the hundreds of nominees individually would take months of nonstop floor time — a prospect Schumer ruled out.