Senate Showdown Over Military Nominations: After a marathon day and a late-night vote to dodge a Thanksgiving government shutdown, four U.S. Senate Republicans found themselves burning the midnight oil, urging their Alabama colleague to drop his months-long objections to hundreds of U.S. military nominations.
Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Todd Young of Indiana, Joni Ernst of Iowa, and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina sought unanimous consent on two stalled nominees, passionately discussing the matter until the wee hours of Thursday.
Republican Sen. Mike Lee of Utah, representing GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, objected to both, defending the minority party’s right to block nominations and expressing his opposition to Tuberville’s protest against the Pentagon’s abortion policy. Lee’s objections meant the nominations remained in limbo.
This marks the second time Tuberville’s Republican colleagues have challenged his tactic on the Senate floor, revealing growing frustration within his own party.
Pentagon officials warn that Tuberville’s freeze on promotions is causing disruptions in the military’s chain of command. Until November 1, only Democratic senators had voiced opposition on the floor.
Tuberville has been objecting to unanimous voice vote approval of military generals and flag officer promotions since early 2023. Now, Senate Republicans are grappling with a Democratic-led resolution that could enable roll call votes on the nominees, potentially saving precious Senate floor time.
Here’s a glimpse of what the senators had to say in the early hours of Thursday:
Before speaking out against Tuberville this month, the Alaska senator had joined him in collecting cloture petition signatures to bring top generals, including the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, to the floor for successful votes. Sullivan, a colonel in the U.S. Marines Corps Reserve, emphasized that he and fellow GOP lawmakers protesting Tuberville’s strategy have received numerous messages from military families expressing gratitude. Despite working hard to resolve the issue, the backlog of stalled nominees, including 450 one-, two-, three-, and four-star generals, continues to grow, posing significant readiness and moral challenges.
The Iowa senator, a retired lieutenant colonel in the Iowa Army National Guard, claimed leadership in the effort to overturn the Biden administration’s policy. Despite being pro-military and pro-life, she acknowledged the national security risks and readiness detriment caused by holding over 450 honorable men and women who have served the nation. Ernst expressed a willingness to go through the nominees one by one for a voice vote, hoping Tuberville would allow it.
Graham proposed a legal strategy against the Biden administration for Tuberville to change course and address the military’s chain of command concerns. He emphasized the need to right the wrong of funding abortion with public taxpayer dollars from the defense coffers, suggesting legal action to challenge President Biden’s defense policy. Graham supported Tuberville’s stance on abortion and encouraged him and Lee to pursue legal avenues.
The Indiana senator requested unanimous consent to confirm two nominees, but Lee objected both times. Young acknowledged the viewership on C-SPAN 2, emphasizing the importance of every voice being heard. He expressed his intent to continue reading through the biographies of nominees, particularly those from the U.S. Naval Academy’s class of 1995.
Lee spoke twice, clarifying that Tuberville’s strategy was not his but a legitimate tactic chosen by a dear friend and colleague. Despite it not being his preferred tactic, Lee defended Tuberville’s right to deploy it under the Senate’s rules. He placed the blame on President Biden and urged him to suspend the “godless, lawless abortion travel policy.”
In the early morning hours, these senators engaged in a passionate debate, reflecting the complex dynamics surrounding Tuberville’s objections to military nominations and the broader issues at play.