Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., talks with a colleague during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing July 12, 2023, in Washington.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., talks with a colleague during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing July 12, 2023, in Washington. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — Military officers who were caught up in Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s monthslong blockade on promotions could be awarded back pay and benefits under new legislation.

The proposed bill would make the promotions of more than 400 senior officers confirmed by the Senate this week retroactive to 30 days after their names were first submitted to the upper chamber.

For some, this would mean back pay dating to spring, when Tuberville, R-Ala., began his hold to force the Pentagon to rescind a policy providing service members seeking abortions or other reproductive health care with time off and travel reimbursement.

Some officers assumed new posts while their promotions were held up and worked for less pay than they were owed.

At least 22 field officers awaiting their first star lost about $2,600 per month as they performed the duties of a flag officer without the corresponding pay raise, according to a September fact sheet compiled by the Democratic staff of the Senate Armed Services Committee. About 20 general officers nominated for their second star lost nearly $2,000 per month.

The bill attempting to remedy those financial losses, called the Military Personnel Confirmation Restoration Act, was introduced by Sens. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., and Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., on Thursday. One of its co-sponsors is Tuberville, whose actions led to the delayed raises.

Tuberville dropped his blockade on most nominees Tuesday under increasing pressure from Democrats and Republicans and the prospect of the Senate temporarily changing its rules to bypass his hold.

He has remained defiant about his 10-month protest, insisting the Pentagon’s policy violated federal law. His hold remains in place for about a dozen four-star generals and admirals.

Tuberville continues to blame the long length of his blockade on Democrats, saying in a floor speech Wednesday that they “do not like the unborn” and they “don’t care anything about the military.”

“Everybody said, well, these men and women need promotions,” he said. “Well, these young unborn will never have a chance for a promotion because they want to kill them before they’re born.”

The Senate swiftly confirmed the 425 nominees held up by Tuberville hours after he announced he would no longer stand in the way of the Senate’s routine confirmation process.

The proposed bill would ensure the seniority of the affected officers is based on the new effective date of promotion outlined in the legislation and not the date they were confirmed.

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Svetlana Shkolnikova covers Congress for Stars and Stripes. She previously worked with the House Foreign Affairs Committee as an American Political Science Association Congressional Fellow and spent four years as a general assignment reporter for The Record newspaper in New Jersey and the USA Today Network. A native of Belarus, she has also reported from Moscow, Russia.

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