Senate Rules Committee backs proposal to override Tuberville’s nomination blockade

By Tony Bertuca / November 14, 2023 at 4:09 PM

The Senate Rules Committee voted 9-7 along party lines to approve Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed’s (D-RI) resolution that would temporarily allow the Senate to override Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) hold on more than 425 defense nominees.

The resolution, which would allow for the en bloc consideration of military promotions with the exception of members of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders, will now advance to the floor where it will need 60 votes to pass.

Tuberville has been holding up scores of military nominations and promotions for months because he opposes the Pentagon’s travel and leave policy for servicemembers seeking abortion services.

Reed, who spoke at a Politico conference earlier today, said he did not want to prejudge the outcome of the upcoming vote on the floor.

“I'm never confident until it’s over,” he said. “I’m Irish.”

Reed noted that his proposal, once it reaches the Senate floor, will need nine Republicans. Though some members of the GOP have taken to the floor to criticize Tuberville’s position, none have yet backed Reed’s resolution.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY), who spoke during the committee’s hearing on the proposal, said he disagreed with Tuberville’s methods but does not support Reed’s proposal “at this particular moment.”

McConnell said he supports Tuberville’s position but asserted that the matter could be taken to court without blocking military promotions. He said conversations about potential offramps with Tuberville remain ongoing.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), meanwhile, said Tuberville “has single handedly brought the Senate to a new low.”

“Our colleague from Alabama has made clear he will not budge,” Schumer said.

Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D-MN), who chairs the Rules Committee, said backing Reed’s proposal is an “elegant” solution for moving the stalled nominees forward.

“We believe this is the most sensible way to do it because it is a temporary policy,” she said.

Reed’s office put out a statement saying the resolution is technically not a rule change.

“Rather, it temporarily establishes a standing order for the remainder of the 118th Congress to provide for the en bloc consideration of military nominations -- with the exception of nominees to the Joint Chiefs of Staff and combatant commanders -- that have been favorably reported by the Senate Armed Services Committee,” the statement said.

Reed, who is quoted in the statement, said Tuberville has been “offered a number of off-ramps for his unprecedented abuse of military promotions, and this resolution offers him yet another.”

“It’s a way to solve the current crisis through the end of next year, but it cannot undo the damage Senator Tuberville has already inflicted on our military, nor should it be seen as a permanent solution,” he said.

Reed noted that the resolution is “limited in scope and duration.”

“It automatically expires at the end of this Congress, and we may need to debate this issue at the outset of the next Congress to ensure a sustainable solution,” he said. “Hopefully we can build bipartisan consensus that no senator should ever place this type of months-long blanket hold on military promotions for political demands, because the only ones benefitting here are Senator Tuberville and America’s adversaries.”