Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) on Tuesday criticized Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) for blocking military nominations and promotions over the Pentagon’s abortion policies.
“I think holding these non-policymaking, career military ― can’t be involved in politics at all ― is a mistake,” McConnell told reporters at a weekly press conference. “We continue to work on that, and I hope at some point we can get it cleared.”
Tuberville has shown no signs of relenting despite bipartisan pushback to his nine-month blockade. In Congress’ upper chamber, a single senator has the ability to hold up nominations and legislation, but military promotions are typically approved quickly via unanimous consent. Democrats could advance each one individually, but processing them all would require months of precious floor time.
Over 300 officers have extended their current tours or gone on temporary assignments to wait out the blockade, according to the Pentagon.
Three of the eight positions on the military’s Joint Chiefs of Staff are vacant, something that has never happened before. The chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army Gen. Mark Milley, is set to retire by the end of this month, and at this rate his replacement isn’t likely to get a vote in the Senate either.
“This idea that one man in the Senate can hold this up for months, I understand maybe promotions, but nominations, is paralyzing the Department of Defense,” House Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Michael McCaul (R-Texas) complained in an interview over the weekend, pointing the finger squarely at Tuberville.
Tuberville was unfazed by McCaul’s comments, telling reporters on Monday that the prominent House Republican “got his facts a little crossways.”
“I’m not holding them all up. They can do them single-handedly,” Tuberville said.
The Alabama senator, who coached football prior to his election, also appeared unaware that Milley must depart his post by Oct. 1, and that he couldn’t stay on longer.
“He has to leave? He’s out. Get somebody else to do the job,” Tuberville said, mimicking the motion of an umpire making a call in a baseball.
Tuberville is seeking to push the Defense Department to rescind a policy of leave and expense reimbursement for service members and their dependents who travel for abortions. The policy was put in place following the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade last year, which enabled various states to impose restrictions on the procedure.
Democrats maintain that GOP leaders like McConnell are the ones who must figure out a solution, insisting that voting individually on uncontroversial military promotions would set a precedent for other senators to abuse.
“It’s up to them to solve it,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said last week. “We’re not going to shift the burden to Democrats when this is a Republican-caused problem.”