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Friday, July 19, 2024

Tuberville tries to force a vote on single military nomination as he continues blockade

Washington — Sen. Tommy Tuberville is trying to force a vote this week on the commandant of the Marine Corps, as the Alabama Republican continues his blockade on hundreds of military promotions and confirmations.

On Tuesday, Tuberville received enough signatures to file what’s known as a cloture petition on Gen. Eric Smith’s nomination to become Marine Corps commandant, according to a source familiar with the situation. Smith is currently assistant commandant. GOP Sen. John Kennedy also confirmed the existence of the cloture petition, and said he signed it.

Tuberville has been single-handedly stalling military promotions and confirmations in protest of a year-old Pentagon policy that helps fund service members’ out-of-state travel for abortions. The hold is in its sixth month and now impacts more than 300 general and flag officers, including nominees to lead the Navy, the Marine Corps, the Army, the Air Force and the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Senate rules make it possible for a single senator to hold up votes, like Tuberville — a freshman senator and former college football coach — is doing. Tuberville’s stall has sparked outrage from Democrats, who accuse him of jeopardizing national security.

“I’ll be blunt: The actions of the senator from Alabama have become a national security nightmare,” Sen. Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts said last week.

Democratic Rep. Jake Auchincloss, a veteran, said Tuberville’s blockage is undermining national security and “handing a public relations gift” to Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Some Senate Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, have expressed reservations over Tuberville’s blockade, too.

Veterans of Foreign Wars of the United States, the oldest veterans organization, has urged Tuberville to lift his hold on the “routine promotion of military generals and flag officers.”

Tuberville’s blockade becomes even more time-sensitive at the end of September, when Gen. Mark Milley must retire as chairman of the Joint Chief of Staff, as required by law.

Until the Senate confirms his replacement, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Chris Grady, will serve as acting chairman. President Biden has nominated Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown to replace Milley.

Tuberville, however, seemed unaware that Milley must leave his post after his four-year, nonrenewable term is up. Last week, he said he didn’t know if Milley would “go anywhere” until someone else was confirmed. When Tuberville was told Milley had to leave by law, he responded, “He has to leave? He’s out. We’ll get someone else to do the job.”

Jack Turman and Alan He contributed to this report.

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