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Pressure mounts on Senator Tuberville blocking military promotions

By Jake Beardslee · November 30, 2023

In brief…

  • Tuberville facing increasing pressure from GOP colleagues over promotion holds
  • He indicated could compromise before chamber vote, but offered no specifics
  • Sullivan suggested lifting holds on some nominations, keeping them on top generals
  • Republicans increasingly willing to back Democratic resolution if no agreement
  • Tuberville running out of time and options before hold becomes untenable
Tuberville is facing mounting pressure to end his months-long holds on military promotions over abortion policy, but a concrete compromise remains elusive.  (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Mildred Guevara)/Wikimedia

Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has been blocking hundreds of military promotions for months in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy, but he is facing increasing pressure from his Republican colleagues to find a compromise. Tuberville indicated this week that he could lift his holds before a Democratic resolution allowing the promotions goes to a vote, but details remain unclear.

Patience with Tuberville among Republicans has been dwindling during the 9-month standoff. A group of GOP senators, many with military experience, have tried to advance individual nominees, but Tuberville has blocked them. Options for Tuberville to save face are narrowing - the defense bill will not go to conference, and he has dismissed the idea of a lawsuit resolving matters.

That leaves a Democratic resolution allowing a bloc vote on the nominations as a final resort if no agreement is reached. Senator Thom Tillis (R-N.C) says he would support that resolution if there is no resolution by January. Others are also considering backing it, which requires 60 votes. That vote would force Republicans to choose between anti-abortion interests and the military. Lawmakers want to avoid weakening the Senate hold power or changing chamber rules, even temporarily.

Senator Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) suggested Tuberville lift holds on lower-ranking officers but keep them for four-star generals. Whether Tuberville would accept is unclear. “The time is now,” said Sullivan, arguing the nominations cannot wait longer. Tuberville indicated to Politico he may partially lift holds but gave no specifics. He is meeting with Armed Services members about options.

Another idea is shifting holds from officers to civilian Pentagon officials overseeing the abortion rule. But Republican patience nears its end, said Senator Capito. “I think he’s really obviously feeling the pressure,” she stated, according to The Hill.