logo

Temporary Senate rule changes may finally put an end to the military blockade by Senator Tommy Tuberville.

If you can't move him, it's time to find a way around him.

That's the thinking of many senators when it comes to Senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama.

Tuberville has been single-handedly blocking hundreds of military promotions for nine months, protesting against Pentagon policies unrelated to it that allow service members to receive abortion-related care. He has currently blocked over 370 promotions, and lawmakers from both sides argue that he is leaving the military in a desperate situation.

"Enough," said Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar, a Democrat from Minnesota, this week. "Senator Tuberville has not listened to those who oversee our armed forces, and he has not listened to his Republican colleagues."

Among them is Senator Dan Sullivan, a Republican from Alaska, who says he takes it personally, being a Marine Corps Reserve colonel. Sullivan told Fox News this week that Tuberville is not only undermining military readiness but also morale.

"If we start kicking out our best flag officers from the military, that will be seen as a suicidal mission for national security," he said.

When it comes to rule changes, there is usually resistance in the Senate. But Klobuchar says the pressure from Republicans on Tuberville to end his protest gives her confidence that the committee will be able to pass a new temporary resolution, with a vote planned for next week.

Senate rules allow Tuberville to single-handedly nominate candidates. But a small group of senators introduced a measure that would allow promotions to go through by a simple majority vote in most military groups (or "blocks").

This measure must be approved by the Rules Committee before it is brought to a full Senate vote, where it will require 60 votes for passage.

Klobuchar says that Tuberville has blocked so many positions - over 370 - that the Senate does not have time to start over, even if someone forces him to back down. The spending bill deadline must be met.

"If we were to vote on them individually, we would literally spend a year, and the government would shut down," she said.

The urgency is also due to the strain on the armed forces, as evidenced by the recent hospitalization of Marine Corps Commandant General Eric Smith, who apparently had a heart attack after working overtime under the nomination blockade.

NPR's Tom Bowman reports that Smith noticed the strain of his work just a few weeks before the heart attack:

"General Smith said he was working - understand - from 5:30 a.m. to 11:30 p.m. because he was doing two jobs, including his deputy's job."

Unfazed, Tuberville told CNN this week that the military, with its staffing shortage, needs to "delegate authority," as he did when he was a college football coach.

"I coached for a long time," Tuberville said. "I think 15 or 20 coaches can do a lot. You've got to be accountable. I'm sure that's what they're doing."

He continued his comparison, shifting blame to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, saying his job is to "prepare people."

"I mean, people are still in the game. Maybe they won't be calling somewhere, but they can show up after I give him a promotion, but all the positions are filled. I mean, you can't tell me that our military is not functioning the way it should be in high readiness, especially given what's happening right now."

When asked to comment on this, Klobuchar directly addressed Tuberville.

"This is not a game, Senator Tuberville," she said. "This is not a football match. This is real life. Right now, you have a Marine Corps Commandant who had a heart attack and is in the hospital after trying to do two jobs. Obviously, this is one thing after another. Vladimir Putin's tools: using the Internet, using cyberspace against our country and other countries. You've delayed the commander of the Air Force in the Pacific. It's just one thing after another."