GOP senators’ latest effort to end the military candidate’s siege in Tuberville drags on through the night — and fails


Despite another round of Republican infighting on the Senate floor lasting into the early morning hours Thursday, a group of GOP senators once again failed to maneuver around Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of military nominations over the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

This is the second time in as many weeks that a group of Tuberville’s Republican colleagues, led by Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa and Dan Sullivan of Alaska, have spent hours swapping stories of military heroes to argue they deserve affirmation. More than 400 military nominations were halted due to Tuberville’s overall control of the Senate, confirming promotions of senior military officers.

Between midnight and 3:30 a.m., Ernest and Sullivan spoke about courage and valor from dozens of military professionals. But the tactic again did not convince Tuberville, or his new ally, Republican Senator Mike Lee of Utah, to back down.

“I’m not enjoying this at all — I love working with my Republican colleagues. I hope we can solve this problem. I’m on the ground here more out of sadness and frustration than anger, and I really hope that with my colleague, Senator Tuberville, we can find a way to move forward so quickly,” Senator Tuberville said. .

He said he spoke with members of the Army who told him that mass sequestrations create a “readiness issue” that “affects the entire Army.”

“Why punish people who have seriously sacrificed for America — certainly more than anyone else here — for a policy they had nothing to do with?” Sullivan asked.

Ernst said Tuberville’s actions harm not only the military but also national security.

Photo: Sen. Joni Ernst speaks to reporters after a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on October 24, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Senator Joni Ernst speaks to reporters after a closed-door lunch meeting with Senate Republicans at the U.S. Capitol on October 24, 2023 in Washington, DC.

Drew Angerer/Getty Images

“I understand the national security risks that exist and the damage to readiness as we continue to keep more than 450 of the finest men and women who have served their nation honorably under our nation’s flag in our uniform,” she said.

Tuberville has been blocking Senate confirmation of hundreds of military nominees for more than nine months over objections to a Department of Defense policy that allows military members to be reimbursed for traveling out of state to obtain an abortion. He asserts that this amounts to taxpayer-funded illegal abortion. Earlier this month, Tuberville said he “works for the American people” and speculated that many do not want their tax dollars going to abortions for military service members.

“This is an illegal and immoral policy. This is about life and it’s also about the rule of law. It’s about our Constitution. It’s about whether we make the laws in the Pentagon or whether we follow the Constitution. This is also about the law.” “The integrity of our military,” Tuberville said in a speech last week. “I simply cannot stand by while the administration injects politics into our military and spends taxpayer dollars on abortion.”

The floor activity occurred Thursday morning after several senators left town for the Thanksgiving break — having just passed a stopgap funding bill to keep the government open.

The late night did not deter Ernest and Sullivan from trying to repeat their effort on November 2 to call dozens of candidates for individual confirmation, but Tuberville prevented them from doing so.

Photo: Senator Tommy Tuberville enters an elevator near the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 15, 2023.

Senator Tommy Tuberville enters an elevator near the Senate chamber on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., November 15, 2023.

Michael Reynolds/EPA via Shutterstock

Sullivan noted that after that session, military members and their families reached out to thank him for his support and help in moving the nominations forward.

“My colleagues and I — we keep our word, we keep our word to our military,” Sullivan said.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.D., and Sen. Todd Young, R-Indiana, joined Ernst and Sullivan in their effort to advance the candidates through early Thursday morning.

Graham, in his remarks ahead of efforts to raise additional candidates, was more heated than he has been in the past as he expressed frustration about what Tuberville is doing. He appeared to indicate that he might support a Democratic resolution that would allow the Senate to temporarily circumvent Tuberville’s control and allow the Senate to approve all nominees at once.

“I promise you this will be the last holiday that this happens,” Graham said. “If it takes me to vote to free these people, I will do it.” “To my pro-life friends, you are not advancing this case. You are doing this cause a disservice if the average American believes that the reason these people are being denied a promotion is because of a political choice they did not make.”

Although senators held the floor for several hours throughout the night, unlike their last attempt in which Ernst and Sullivan collectively called for the confirmation of 64 different nominees, Thursday night’s effort saw only two nominees blocked from the floor.

This is because Lee, a strict Constitutionalist, joined Tuberville in his siege. He held the floor with two long stalls after each candidate rose.

He told me he did so not because he agreed with Tuberville’s tactic, but because he believed in defending Tuberville’s power as a single senator, under Senate rules, for control.

That argument has come into focus in recent days as the Senate considered the Democratic decision to turn around Tuberville. Many Republicans were reluctant to support the resolution, which would require the support of at least nine Republicans to pass, because they did not want to risk altering Senate rules or diminishing the power of individual senators.

Tuberville was able to prevent nominees from being confirmed in large groups because Senate rules require all 100 senators to agree to speed things through. Any member has the right to stop any candidate for any reason. But military candidates are not generally banned, because they are viewed as apolitical.

Defending Tuberville, he told me: “This is his right. It is a right that I will defend until my last breath for the simple reason that it is his right to do it and it is his right to do that.”

Tuberville has said in the past that he would allow nominees to be confirmed individually. It allowed the confirmation of six prominent military members to whom Majority Leader Chuck Schumer made individual confirmations and forced the Senate to take a procedural vote on them.

But Sullivan and Ernst say their efforts amount to individual consideration of the candidates.

“He said I’m not stopping candidates from endorsing them, they can put them on the floor one by one and I’m not going to stop them,” Sullivan said, citing Tuberville’s old position. “That’s what we do. By the way, Mr. President, this is normal. We’ve done research. There have been two times in the last half-century where there has been a recorded vote on the rank of brigadier general. Twice. We do more than the normal order here.”

It is not clear whether Tuberville could be persuaded to escape from his grasp. The overnight effort highlighted the growing number of Republicans who might be willing to take drastic steps to rally around him.

Schumer said he soon intends to introduce the resolution to get around Tuberville on the floor. Whether there will be the nine Republicans needed to support him is an open question.

ABC News’ Sarah Beth Hensley contributed to this report.

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