Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., attends a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on July 12, 2023.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., attends a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on July 12, 2023. (Carlos Bongioanni/Stars and Stripes)

WASHINGTON — Congress is continuing work to remedy the effects of Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s months-long hold on military nominees, moving along a bill that would provide back pay to affected officers and chipping away at the remaining backlog of delayed promotions.

The Senate late last week approved legislation that would give more than 400 general and flag officers pay they missed out on as Tuberville, R-Ala., held up their promotions for much of the year. A companion bill in the House will likely be voted on when the chamber returns from recess in January.

“I’m still angry that sacred trust was broken these past nine months, but it’s time to repair it,” said Rep. Chrissy Houlahan, D-Pa., a former Air Force officer. “I hope this legislation will be quickly taken up to demonstrate to military personnel that the vast majority of us in Congress are truly thankful for their service and sacrifice.”

The bill would award back pay to promoted officers dating to 30 days after their nominations were first submitted to the Senate. Some officers lost out on thousands of dollars as they assumed new posts and worked for less pay than they were owed.

The legislation would also provide retroactive promotion dates and other administrative fixes, according to lawmakers.

“I encourage my colleagues in the House to pass this important legislation as quickly as possible to compensate our troops and reprioritize national security,” said Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va.

Senators unanimously passed the bill days after Tuberville largely lifted the blockade he put in place on hundreds of general and flag officer nominees to protest a Pentagon abortion travel policy. He co-sponsored the legislation to give those officers back pay but continues to delay the promotion of 11 four-star generals and admirals.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Monday that he wants to confirm the remaining officers before the Senate leaves for holiday break this week, though that goal could be complicated by ongoing negotiations over a deal on immigration reform and Ukraine aid.

“In past years, these four-star generals would have been swiftly appointed to their posts,” Schumer said in a floor speech. “While I’m glad the senator has relinquished his holds, I’m disappointed it’s taken this long and we’ll still need to confirm the last few of these nominees before the end of the week.”

The chamber last week confirmed seven additional officers, including some that were recently blocked by Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., over their stances on diversity initiatives.

Officers who are not confirmed before the end of the year would need to be renominated and again sent through the Senate Armed Services Committee unless senators agree to roll the nominations into the new year.

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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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