Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who has held up military promotions for nine months, slammed a proposal being floated to change the chamber’s rules to allow a vote on many of the nominations en masse and attacked the White House and Senate Democrats for not negotiating with him.
“It’s typical of this place. This administration would rather burn the Senate down and that’s what would happen. … If you change the rules of the Senate then it lasts forever,” Tuberville told CNN’s Manu Raju. “So they would rather burn down the Senate than negotiate.”
All Senate Democrats would have to join with nine Republicans for this latest plan to work. The bloc of nominees wouldn’t include some higher-level military promotions, which senators would still want to confirm one at a time. The proposal could go to the Senate Rules Committee as soon as this week, a source told CNN Thursday.
Tuberville has been holding up military promotions since February because of a Department of Defense policy that reimburses travel costs for military members requiring reproductive care outside of the state in which they are stationed. The department enacted the policy after the reversal of Roe v. Wade last year overturned the constitutional right to an abortion and left the issue to individual states.
The Alabama Republican added: “If they go around and, without negotiating, change the rules of the Senate it just goes to show you they want it their way or the highway.”
Tuberville, declining to provide specifics, said that members of the military tell him that his holds are not impacting readiness – something which the Pentagon and White House have repeatedly highlighted in their arguments urging the Senator to lift his objections.
“If I thought this was happening, I wouldn’t be doing this. And I’ve told you that all along. And the people that I trust tell me that it’s not,” he told CNN.
Tuberville’s hold is affecting a number of senior military posts in the Middle East as the US deploys units to the area amid heightened tensions after a series of attacks on coalition bases and the crisis in Israel and Gaza.
The commander of the US Navy’s 5th Fleet – which is responsible for US naval operations in the Middle East region including the Red Sea and Gulf of Oman – is still awaiting promotion to deputy commander of US Central Command, which oversees US forces and operations in the region.
The deputy commanders of both the 5th Fleet and US Air Forces Central are also included in Tuberville’s hold, as well as Central Command’s deputy director of strategy, plans and policy.
Last month, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro told CNN the holds would have a “negative impact” on combat readiness. He was joined by the secretaries for the Army and Air Force in describing Tuberville’s actions as harmful to US interests.
Tuberville also said that he has had little or no interaction with the White House about the possibility of finding a solution.
“No conversation. Nobody wants to negotiate. You know this is not a negotiating crowd over in the White House,” Tuberville said.
Tuberville also noted that he had spoken with Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, an Arizona Independent, for 30 minutes about the possible rule change and said he doesn’t think she would support it.
Under the hold, the Senate can still confirm individual military promotions, which the body has done for a few high-profile appointments, but cannot approve hundreds of promotions at once as a time-saving measure.
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