Sen. Tommy Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, has been refusing to join other senators in the routine promotion of large groups of military nominees through a quick unanimous consent process. (Andrew Harnik-Pool/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — U.S. Senate Democrats are mulling a strategy to bypass Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s months-long hold on hundreds of military promotions in protest of a Pentagon abortion policy that was authorized in the aftermath of a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling.
The Alabama Republican has been refusing to join other senators in the routine action of promoting large groups of military nominees through a quick unanimous consent process.
Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat who chairs the Senate Committee on Armed Services, is drafting a resolution to temporarily change Senate rules and allow time-saving roll call votes on large blocs of nominees rather than having to bring them to the floor one by one. The proposal was first reported by Punchbowl News.
In September, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer brought three of the hundreds of nominees to the floor for a roll call vote, including Gen. Charles Q. Brown to be chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
As of Thursday, 378 nominees are stalled, according to the Pentagon. That number could grow to 650 by the end of the year if Tuberville does not lift the blanket hold.
“We have to get our personnel confirmed because it’s an extraordinary readiness issue,” Reed told States Newsroom Thursday. “It’s getting worse given the conflicts in Israel and Ukraine. And so there’ll be an effort to move the resolution.”
The resolution text is not yet finished, but it’s expected to head to the Senate Committee on Rules and Administration as early as next week, a congressional aide said.
Among the military promotions blocked by Tuberville are Admiral Lisa Franchetti, the first woman nominated to lead the U.S. Navy, and General David W. Allvin, nominee to be the next Air Force chief of staff.
Tuberville likened Reed’s idea to an attempt to “burn down the Senate.”
“It makes no sense. When you’re in the minority, whether Democrat or Republican, it’s the only power you have to get the other group’s attention,” he told reporters Thursday. “If they do away with this, we might as well stay at home, or the minority stay at home, because (the majority) can get anything done they want.”
“You can’t overlook the minority. You got to give them a little bit of voice, and this would take it away,” said Tuberville, who also sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee.
The rule change, if adopted, would sunset at the end of the 118th Congress, according to the congressional aide.
Whether the proposal would gain enough support to pass the upper chamber is unclear.
The bill would need 60 votes to clear a procedural vote before heading to the floor. Democrats have a slim majority in the 51-49 split Senate, as the three independents caucus with Democrats.
Defense abortion policy
Tuberville’s blockade has been in protest of a Department of Defense policy that grants leave and travel allowances for service members seeking abortions in areas of the country where it remains legal.
Tuberville maintains the department’s policy is illegal. The Pentagon and Biden administration categorically refute that claim.
The Pentagon announced the policy less than a year after the Supreme Court struck down the constitutional right to abortion. The court’s decision triggered a patchwork of state-by-state abortion laws.
In September 2022, the RAND Corporation, a think tank that has long produced defense research, released a study showing that 80,000 active-duty female troops are based in states where legislatures enacted full or partial bans.
Jennifer Shutt contributed to this report.
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