Hundreds of photos of blocked military nominees line Senate lawn as Democrats raise pressure on Tuberville
Stars and Stripes September 19, 2023
WASHINGTON — The names and faces of hundreds of senior military nominees blocked from promotion by Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama dotted a lawn outside the Senate on Tuesday as Democrats stepped up their pressure campaign for him to end his hold.
The visual installation by the progressive veterans group Vote Vets served as a backdrop for senators hoping to shame Tuberville into ending his seven-month refusal to proceed with unanimous votes on more than 300 military officers slated for promotions and appointments.
“I literally cannot believe that Tommy Tuberville is still doing this,” said Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn. “I hope that he comes out of that building and sees these 300 signs … because every single picture, every single name, every single title represents someone who has decided to put their life on the line for our country.”
Tuberville said he will not drop his blockade until the Pentagon rescinds a reproductive health care policy giving service members and their dependents time off and travel reimbursement to access abortion care and other services. The policy was enacted after the Supreme Court last year ended a nearly 50-year constitutional right to an abortion.
Tuberville’s spokesman, Steve Stafford, did not say whether the senator saw the display but insisted Tuberville’s actions are endorsed by many veterans and Republicans.
“[Tuberville] is encouraged by the huge support he is receiving from conservatives across America and from more than 5,000 veterans who are concerned about the direction of our military right now,” Stafford said.
Six Democratic senators on Tuesday said they were concerned about the injection of partisanship and politics into a routine process in which senators vote for large batches of military nominees in unanimous voice votes. The length of Tuberville’s blockade has produced a logjam of about 319 nominations that would take 103 days to confirm individually, Klobuchar said.
The senators spoke in front of the photos of four top nominees awaiting promotion: Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown for chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. David Allvin for Air Force chief of staff, Gen. Randy George for Army chief of staff and Gen. Eric Smith as commandant of the Marine Corps.
Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti, set to become the first female chief of naval operations and first woman on the Joint Chiefs, is also caught in the hold.
The Navy estimates it will take six to seven years to recover from the damage inflicted by Tuberville’s block, Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said Tuesday. Franchetti testified in the Senate last week that it would take three to four months to “move all the people around” at the 3-star officer level alone.
“Our enemies are watching,” Warren said. “As Defense Secretary [Lloyd] Austin has pointed out, the longer these holds continue, the greater the risk. The U.S. military runs in every theater, every domain and every service. It is hard to imagine a bigger propaganda win for our enemies.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., took aim at Tuberville’s lack of military service and failure to take various “off-ramps” offered by Democrats to compromise with him. The Democratic staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee said last week that the panel twice voted on legislation to rescind the Pentagon policy, but it failed every time.
Tuberville also was offered a vote on the policy on the Senate floor, but he turned it down, said Duckworth, a retired Army National Guard lieutenant colonel who lost both her legs in the Iraq War.
“Why is Tommy Tuberville doing this?” she asked. “He’s not doing this for the good of the nation. A man who has never worn the uniform of this great nation, who could have at any time joined the military, did not. Now he is holding it hostage for his own personal political gain. It is not acceptable.”
Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., issued an appeal to Republicans, urging them to convince Tuberville to drop his hold. Some Republicans have placed the blame for the hold’s growing impact on Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., accusing him of refusing to hold individual roll call votes on nominees.
Schumer and other Democrats have rejected that argument and said it is the responsibility of the Republican party to solve an issue instigated by a Republican senator.
“While we will continue to raise this issue in any form possible, we need our Republican colleagues to do more than politely whisper to Sen. Tuberville, do more than say polite things to the press,” Murphy said. “They need to start pressing him to put the security of this nation first.”