The Senate Rules Committee on Tuesday voted to change its rules temporarily in order to break through a months-long block on hundreds of military promotions by Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL).
The committee’s vote was on a plan to allow consideration of some 350 pending nominations in a single parliamentary move. The exceptions to the en masse voting would be for the eight members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the 11 commanders of a combatant command.
The two Senate leaders, Chuck Schumer (D-NY) and Mitch McConnell (R-KY), are both on the Rules Committee. Schumer voted “aye” on the rule suspension while McConnell voted “no.”
Though the vote passed in committee, it could face challenges in the full Senate, where Republican cooperation is necessary for its final approval.
On Tuesday, though, Rules Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-MN) noted that there are “a number of Senators on both sides of the aisle—a number of Republican Senators—who’ve been very, I will say, loud about wanting to change this policy and wanting to do something…to get these nominations through.”
One Senator on the Senate Armed Services Committee—in this case, Tuberville—is able to hold up potentially countless military promotions through a Senate procedure called “unanimous consent.”
Tuberville has so far blocked more than 370 military nominations amid his demand that the government stop paying for service members to travel across state lines to obtain abortions. That number has the potential to grow to 650 by the end of December without the temporary rule change.
Earlier this month, after holding their grievances in check for the better part of the year, several Senate Republicans erupted in anger on the chamber floor—as Klobuchar noted on Tuesday—over Tuberville’s intransigence, with Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-SC) accusing Tuberville of “doing great damage to our military.”
And Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) led an effort to call for 61 promotions to be advanced. Tuberville objected to each of them.
“Xi Jinping is loving this. So is Putin,” Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK) said at one point, referring to the Presidents of China and Russia. “How dumb can we be, man?”
According to analysis published Friday in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), the Pentagon’s policy on paying for paid leave and travel reimbursement to service members for reproductive health care, including abortion costs about $1 million annually, or 0.008% of the current 816.7 billion military budget.
In early August Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued guidance to the military workforce on reshuffling key military roles in the wake of Tuberville’s ongoing hold. They included assigning certain lower-level officers to lead in an acting capacity.
Marine Corps Commandant Gen. Eric Smith, who was confirmed amid a press for cloture by Schumer in September and had called his and other military leaders’ months of working two jobs “unsustainable,” was hospitalized at the end of October after an apparent heart attack.