Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska was joined by his GOP colleagues Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana and Mitt Romney of Utah in the chamber Wednesday night in an attempt to pass 115 top military nominees delayed by fellow Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on military promotions over Pentagon abortion policy.
Over the course of more than four hours, these Republican senators read out nominees’ summaries and argued that Tuberville’s hold harms military readiness, punishes the officers who are not responsible for the Pentagon’s policy and sets a dangerous precedent in the US Senate – forcing the Alabama Republican to individually object to 61 nominations.
“That’ll be 61 tonight, and Sen. Ernst and I, and I know a lot of our other colleagues want to join us, we’re going to keep coming down here,” Sullivan said.
“My message to our generals and admirals who are being held up – hang in there. Some of us have your back. We have your back. “We’ll be coming here every night to try and get you guys confirmed,” he added.
Sullivan argued earlier Wednesday night that Tuberville’s holds are “hugely disruptive to readiness,” during a dangerous moment in global relations.
“As a member of the Armed Services committee, as a US Marine Corps colonel, I know, we all know here in the Senate, America needs to have our best players, our most combat-capable leaders on the field. And right now, that’s not happening. It needs to change,” Sullivan said.
Tuberville has been holding up military promotions since February because of a Department of Defense policy that reimburses travel costs for military members requiring reproductive care outside of the state in which they are stationed. The department enacted the policy after the reversal of Roe v. Wade last year overturned the constitutional right to an abortion and left the issue to individual states.
Sullivan described himself Wednesday as “as pro-life as they come,” adding “I strongly disagree” with Pentagon policy, and has been pushing for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer to bring the nominees up individually.
“But I also firmly believe that one of our most core, basic principles, certainly as Republicans, which I think in many ways distinguishes us from our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, is our serious focus on national security, readiness, a strong military and taking care of our troops and their families,” he added.
I have pushed back on Tuberville’s argument that the top nominees are not as essential for readiness, and that some of them are leftist.
“The idea that some of these officers are supposedly ‘woke’ or desk jockeys is ridiculous,” Sullivan said.
“I’ve worked closely with Sen. Tuberville for months, always defending his holds, always looking for compromise, the one we are working on now, ”he added. “But we haven’t made progress, and the world’s a dangerous place.”
Tuberville argued that he is not harming readiness.
“I have to respectfully disagree with my colleagues about the effect of my hold on readiness. “My hold is not affecting readiness,” Tuberville said and insisted he will continue his hold on him “until the Pentagon follows the law or the Democrats change the law.”
Graham disputed Tuberville’s point.
“It doesn’t matter whether you believe it or not, Sen. Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military,” he said.
Senators also pushed back on Tuberville’s tactics, arguing that these military nominees have no control over the Pentagon’s policy on reproductive care.
Graham, when making his request for several nominees to be confirmed, added, “why would you punish them for something they’ve got nothing to do with?”
Tuberville argued that his tactics are not out of line. “Every day this continues is a day that Democrats think abortion is more important than the nomination, and our miliary,” he said. “I support many of these nominees, and I agree that these are very, very important jobs. But we could have been voting on these nominees the entire nine months.”
Ernst, a former member of the military herself, noted that she is part of a military family and she is “proudly, adamantly, and unabashedly pro-life.” However, she also called on Tuberville to lift his holds.
“We have done the best that we can to honor the requests of a fellow senator, that these nominations be brought to the floor and voted on individually. And I really respect men of their word. I do not respect men who do not honor their word,” she said, adding that each of the nominees brought forward “have been denied an opportunity to move forward.”
Sullivan said that “there is growing bitterness within the military” because “their careers are being punished over a political dispute they had nothing to do with and no power to resolve.”
Young highlighted the conflicts in Ukraine and Israel, as well as concerns for Taiwan while calling for Tuberville to lift his hold. “We need a fully staffed, fully competent, fully engaged and focused security establishment,” Young said.
“I’m fervently, I am passionately, I am unapologetically pro-life in conviction and in deed. My reputation is untarnished and it’s unambiguous in that regard,” Young added. “And to hold responsible effectively 300 nominated patriots who ought to be pinning on a star or another star right now, hold them professionally responsible for this and by extension to undermine the safety and security of the American people during this perilous time right now, just “It doesn’t make any sense to me.”
Some senators argued that long-term, blanket holds set a poor precedent in the Senate that would lead to increased gridlock and politicization of the military.
“Everybody in this body could find an issue with any administration they don’t agree with, and what we’re going to do is Pandora’s box,” Graham said.
Romney called Tuberville’s hold “an abuse of the powers we have as senators.”
“I rise out of great concern for our military, for its readiness at a time of great peril, but also out of concern for the men and women who are being held up, and whose careers and prospects and families and plans are being interrupted by the virtue of the decision of, in this case, two people, one Secretary Austin and the other is Sen. Tuberville to take intractable positions,” Romney said. “And it’s simply, in my opinion, an abuse of the powers we have as senators to say if there’s something we vehemently disagree with, that we’re going to use that power to hold up the promotion of over 350 men and women in our “military.”
This story has been updated with additional developments.