April 14, 2024

More than 300 posters featuring the generals and admirals caught in Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of military promotions dotted a corner of the lawn in front of the U.S. Capitol on Tuesday in a display created by a progressive veterans group.

VoteVets, a liberal political action committee founded by veterans, and several Democratic senators used the display to bolster their arguments that Tuberville’s hold is harming the military. Standing beside the visualization of the toll of Tuberville’s actions, the senators reiterated their calls for Tuberville, R-Ala., to reverse course and for other Republicans to pressure him to do so.

“I hope that he comes out of that building and sees these 300 signs that are in front of us right now,” Sen. Amy Klobuchar, D-Minn., said at Tuesday’s news conference. “Because every single picture, every single name, every single title represents someone who has decided to put their life on the line for our country.”

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Since late February, Tuberville has used a procedural tactic known as a hold to block the confirmation of all nominees to be one-star generals and admirals and above. Tuberville is protesting the Pentagon policy of providing travel expenses and leave to troops who seek abortions.

The hold has led to vacancies at the very top of the military, with the Army, Navy and Marine Corps now led by acting chiefs. By the end of the month, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff may also be filled on a temporary basis by the vice chief.

While a hold cannot prevent the Senate from confirming nominees, it means the chamber must take lengthy individual roll-call votes on each nominee rather than approving them in batches in voice votes, as it normally does for non-controversial military nominees.

Democrats have balked at taking roll-call votes for individual nominees because of the time it would take and because they argue that confirming nominees one by one would set a bad precedent that could encourage other senators to mimic Tuberville’s tactic in the future. And in response to GOP calls to have roll-call votes on at least the members of the Joint Chiefs, Democrats contend that would be unfair to the hundreds of lower-ranking officers awaiting confirmation.

VoteVets has needled Tuberville and other Republican senators throughout the standoff. Most recently, in addition to the display on the Capitol lawn, the group launched a national ad campaign Tuesday called “Tight Lips Could Sink Ships,” accusing Republican senators of being “traitors” for not pressuring Tuberville to end his hold.

At Tuesday’s new conference, Democrats reiterated the arguments they have made over the last six months and have been amplifying as Joint Chiefs vacancies mount — that Tuberville’s hold adds more stress to military families, that officers are being overworked by juggling multiple jobs to fill gaps, that adversaries are emboldened by the disarray.

Tuberville, who rejected offers to vote on reversing the Pentagon abortion policy when the Senate debated its annual defense policy bill earlier this year, said he was unmoved by the display. He has vowed to maintain the hold until the Pentagon reverses the policy or Congress votes to enshrine it in law.

“I just saw it when I was driving over, saw it from the window,” said Tuberville, who added he was impressed by the display before he was told it was about him. “I’ve got more support than they probably got. I’m not doing it for support. I’m doing it to say, let’s do it right. It might pass. Send it over and let’s vote on it.”

— Rebecca Kheel can be reached at rebecca.kheel@military.com. Follow her on X @reporterkheel.

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