Tommy Tuberville announces end to blanket military holds; four-star officers still are stalled

December 6, 2023

Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Alabama) announced Tuesday, December 5, that he would lift his blanket hold on military promotions—ending a nearly ten-month standoff over a Biden Administration abortion policy that made him the target of bipartisan ire, reports The Washington Post.

“It’s been a long fight, we fought hard,” Tuberville said after announcing his decision to his colleagues at a closed-door lunch. “We just released them.”

The hold, which Tuberville began in February, applied to all senior military promotions—and hundreds of officers were caught up in its net. As officers increasingly complained of the toll on military readiness and morale, and as a war raged in the Middle East, Tuberville faced increasing pressure from his fellow Republicans to drop the hold.

He has now narrowed his hold to the ten or so promotions at the four-star rank. Tuberville said he relinquished the hold because he wanted to keep Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) from bringing up a vote to get around his maneuver. He did not receive any concessions he previously demanded, such as a change to the military funding bill to address the abortion policy.

“We got all we could get,” he told reporters.

Tuberville was left with few options after Schumer put forward a proposal that would allow the Senate to go around Tuberville’s holds, which had the Republican votes necessary to pass.

On Tuesday evening, Schumer confirmed more than 400 stalled promotions on the Senate floor. “I am glad this pointless and gravely damaging ordeal has finally, finally ended,” he said. “The senior senator from Alabama has nothing to show for his ten months’ delay … except for the damage he did to our military readiness and the pain he caused to military families.”

Tuberville’s hold led to a remarkably public confrontation with some of his GOP colleagues, who staged a late-night attempt to promote the officers he had blocked, forcing him to personally object to each one. Republican Senators Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Todd Young (Indiana) and Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), all veterans, implored Tuberville on the Senate floor to lift his hold for the sake of national security.

“No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military,” Graham said then. “I don’t say that lightly; I’ve been trying to work with you for nine months.”

Behind closed doors, Republicans have complained that Tuberville’s blockade was hurting them politically as well, given the harm to the military and the focus on abortion, which has been a losing issue at the polls for the GOP in recent elections.

Research contact: @washingtonpost