Tuberville (Mostly) Ends Military Promotion Hold
400-plus general and flag officer promotions went through almost instantaneously.
WaPo (“Tommy Tuberville announces end to blanket military holds“):
“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 as a war raged 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 the 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.
Tuberville 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.
On Tuesday evening, Schumer confirmed more than 400 stalled promotions on the Senate floor. “I am glad this pointless and gravely damaging ordeal has finally, finally ended,” he said. “The senior senator from Alabama has nothing to show for his 10 months’ delay … except for the damage he did to our military readiness and the pain he caused to military families.”
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 him to personally object to each one. Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Todd C. Young (Ind.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.), 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 have 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 (R-Ky.) took the rare step of publicly rebuking Tuberville, saying he should not be punishing “military heroes” for a Biden administration policy. Other Republican colleagues said they 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.
The Hill (“Biden rips Tuberville after military holds lifted: ‘I hope no one forgets what he did’“):
President Biden on Tuesday ripped Sen. Tommy Tuberville after the Alabama Republican ended a nearly 10-month hold on military nominations, arguing the senator’s actions were “politically motivated” and “pointless.”
“These confirmations are long overdue, and should never have been held up in the first place. Our service members are the backbone of our country and deserve to receive the pay and promotions they have earned,” Biden said in a statement. “In the end, this was all pointless.
“Senator Tuberville, and the Republicans who stood with him, needlessly hurt hundreds of servicemembers and military families and threatened our national security — all to push a partisan agenda. I hope no one forgets what he did,” Biden added. “Those who serve this nation deserve better.”
Biden welcomed the release on the backlog of nominations, saying it would allow military families to make plans to move, start new jobs and send their kids to new schools.
“Our servicemembers and military families put everything on the line for our country,” Biden said. “I thank the Senate for quickly confirming these appointments and urge them to confirm the remaining appointees swiftly.”
While I doubt this will have much, if any impact, on next year’s elections, this was really poorly handled by Tuberville and the Republican leadership. To be sure, it was likely marginally helpful to Tuberville with Alabama voters, but he’s not up for re-election until 2026. But it gave Democrats a hammer to hit Republicans with on defense policy without advancing any policy goals at all.
To the extent this was about policy, Tuberville had something of a point. Given decades of Congressional support for the so-called Hyde Amendment, and the sheer size of this program, Congress, not the Secretary of Defense, should have made the call on funding it. But holding up military promotions—particularly at the one- and two-star level—simply made no sense as a tool for gaining leverage.