Senator doubles down on block on military nominees after Hamas attack on Israel: ANALYSIS
"The hold is not affecting our readiness," a spokesperson argued.
The Hamas terror attack in Israel has drawn attention in the U.S. to the speakership fight in the House, with some lawmakers noting how that may stall congressional efforts to send aid as Israel responds.
But there's another form of paralysis on Capitol Hill, on the other side of the building.
Multiple military officials with postings in the Middle East are currently languishing on the Senate floor amid Alabama Republican Tommy Tuberville's ongoing blockade of hundreds of Pentagon promotions.
Tuberville has been stopping all military confirmations since February over a Pentagon policy that reimburses service members for out-of-state travel to access abortions, which he opposes.
A spokesperson for Tuberville told ABC News on Monday that the senator intends to keep his hold in place. The crisis in Israel has not influenced his position.
"It's no surprise Democrats want to change the subject. But it doesn't change the fact that the hold is not affecting our readiness or the readiness of any other country," the Tuberville spokesperson said, in part.
The Senate is technically still able to take up military nominations through a more labor-intensive process that requires individual rather than batch votes.
Vice Adm. Charles B. Cooper, who was nominated to be deputy commander in charge of all U.S. military operations in the Middle East -- the second-highest ranking officer in the region -- has been awaiting confirmation because of Tuberville's blockade.
Rear Adm. George M. Wikoff, the nominee to be the commander of the Navy's 5th Fleet, is currently also awaiting a promotion from the Senate amid Tuberville's resistance. Wikoff would be responsible for all naval and combined maritime forces in the region.
Both posts are currently filled by the nominees' predecessors, making the stalls less of an obstacle to ongoing operations.
Adm. Lisa Franchetti is nominated to be the chief of naval operations, the branch's top adviser to the president. She's yet to be confirmed -- which Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, singled out over the weekend. In the interim, she has been in an acting capacity.
Wikoff's nomination is on hold even as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on Sunday ordered that the USS Ford carrier strike group, which includes the USS Gerald R. Ford aircraft carrier, a guided-missile cruiser, and four guided-missile destroyers, be deployed to the Mediterranean Sea near Israel.
In a Wall Street Journal column on Monday, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell praised the administration for deploying the strike group, calling it a "good first step." McConnell has said he opposes Tuberville's blocking of military nominations, but the Republican conference has not successfully persuaded him to change his position.
Georgetown University public policy professor Don Moynihan wrote on Sunday that the military nomination stoppage was part of a broader issue in the Senate of conservative lawmakers citing policy objections to prevent the confirmation of key posts, including the next ambassador to Israel.
"It would be hyperbole to suggest the these actions, by themselves, had anything to do with the attack, or that they have a dramatic effect on the outcome. But they do hamper the ability of the US government to respond at this time," Moynihan wrote.
Tuberville has withheld his consent to move forward with confirming nominations in a bloc, insisting that if Democrats wish to advance nominees, they will need to do so one-by-one. That would break with Senate precedent on how nominations are confirmed.
The chamber's majority leader, Chuck Schumer, has always had the option to sidestep Tuberville and last month he did just that, advancing three high-ranking military nominees, including Air Force Gen. Charles "CQ" Brown Jr.'s nomination to serve as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.
It is not yet clear whether Schumer will make a similar move to sidestep Tuberville and begin the process of confirming these Middle East-associated nominees when the Senate returns next week.