Tuberville once again blocks hundreds of military nominees, further digging in heels over DOD abortion policy

Sen. Tommy Tuberville blocked confirmation of over 300 nominees Thursday.

November 10, 2023, 1:29 PM

The Senate was gaveled out Thursday evening ahead of Veterans Day without confirming any of the more than 360 pending military nominees after Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville once again objected to the confirmation of each one due to the Department of Defense's abortion policies.

This is the second week in a row that Tuberville has been forced by other members of the body to stand on the Senate floor and object to military nominees being brought up for confirmation. This time, the effort to force confirmation of military nominees was led by Democratic Sen. Tim Kaine, who over the course of more than an hour, asked the Senate to unanimously confirm each nominee one by one, only to be blocked each time by Tuberville.

Kaine, in floor remarks, invoked the upcoming holiday to urge Tuberville to find ways to address his concerns that don't punish non-political appointees.

"To be plain, none of these 364 have anything to do, any responsibility over the policy with which my colleague from Alabama finds significant disagreement," Kaine said.

PHOTO: Sen. Tim Kaine leaves the Senate Democrats' lunch in the Capitol, Sept. 28, 2023.
Sen. Tim Kaine leaves the Senate Democrats' lunch in the Capitol, Sept. 28, 2023.
Bill Clark/CQ-Roll Call via Getty Images

Tuberville has been objecting to the confirmation of nominees over a Department of Defense policy that allows service members to be compensated for out-of-state travel to receive abortions. His hold has all but completely stopped military promotions nationwide for over nine months.

"This is a policy that is illegal and immoral. This is about life and it's also about the rule of law. It's about our Constitution. It's about whether we make laws at the Pentagon or whether we follow the constitution. This is also about the integrity of our military," Tuberville said on the floor. "I cannot simply sit idly by while the administration injects politics in our military and spends taxpayer money on abortion."

Tuberville has objected to moving nominees as large groups, but he has said he won't prevent the Senate from moving nominees individually. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has always had the power to bring nominees up for consideration on a one-by-one basis, but he has be resistant to do so except for some high-profile nominees, citing concern about politicizing the military.

Kaine, following in the vein of a similar effort by Republican Sens. Joni Ernst and Dan Sullivan last week, tried to push Tuberville on this point in two separate days of floor actions. In both instances, the senators went to the Senate floor and tried to move nominees one by one, asking each time for the unanimous agreement of all 100 senators for their confirmation.

This proved to be insufficient for Tuberville, who said he wants the nominees moved through regular order.

PHOTO: Sen. Tommy Tuberville speaks to reporters on his way to a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the Capitol, Nov. 7, 2023.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville speaks to reporters on his way to a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the Capitol, Nov. 7, 2023.
Drew Angerer/Getty Images

Tension within the Republican conference over Tuberville's hold is beginning to bubble over. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell has said repeatedly he does not endorse what Tuberville is doing, and many of his colleagues are beginning to challenge his move publicly.

Earlier this week, Senate Republicans held a special conference to discuss possible off ramps with Tuberville. He left saying he'd take time to consider which of those options might appeal to him.

Republican senators, during the closed-door meeting, suggested Tuberville allow a select number of nominees to be cleared expeditiously, go to court to litigate his concerns, or wait on the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act to see whether the issue could be remedied legislatively, among a variety of other options.

But Tuberville's objections on the floor Thursday made clear he hasn't yet decided whether he's considering any of these alternatives.

"I'm going to keep my holds in place. If senators want to vote on these nominees one at a time, I'm all for it. But I will keep my holds in place until the Pentagon allows me the opportunity to negotiate this change of law," Tuberville said on the floor Thursday.

Kaine, following Tuberville's block of his 364 individual nomination requests, left the floor predicting that Tuberville will soon be forced to back down.

"It's bad internally and it sends a horrible message," Kaine said. "I think we're getting near the place where the ice will break on this."

There is some evidence to suggest that he could be right. The Senate Rules committee is setting the stage for a Tuesday meeting to consider a resolution that would allow the Senate to temporarily circumvent Tuberville's hold. It's not clear whether that resolution would get enough Republican support, despite the growing frustration on both sides of the aisle.

ABC News' Mariam Khan contributed tot his report.

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