Sen. Tommy Tuberville is planning to force his Senate colleagues to vote on Gen. Eric Smith’s promotion to U.S. Marine Corps commandant—a new tactic in the Alabama Republican’s monthslong dispute with the Defense Department over its taxpayer-funded abortion policy.
At a meeting Tuesday with his Senate Republican colleagues, Tuberville secured the backing of at least 16 other rank-and-file senators—the minimum number needed to sign a cloture petition and bring a motion to the floor for a vote. “Most of those who signed the petition are fellow Senate conservatives,” The Hill reported.
Their revolt against Senate leadership poses a test for Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., who has the power to bring any nominee to the floor but has refused to do so.
Schumer cited the Marine Corps commandant’s position as “critical” in a May tirade against Tuberville.
“Senator Tuberville’s indefinite hold on the confirmation of our general and flag officers is reckless, unprecedented, harmful to our military’s readiness and sends the wrong message to our partners and allies,” Schumer said at the time.
Schumer will now have his chance to vote on Smith’s promotion—albeit the result of Tuberville’s unexpected move.
Smith was nominated to be the Marine Corps’ top officer by President Joe Biden in May. The Senate Armed Services Committee approved his promotion in June. He’s currently serving as acting commandant while awaiting Senate confirmation.
There are currently more than 300 military officers in the same spot as Smith. Tuberville has said on numerous occasions that Democrats could proceed with individual votes for each nominee. Instead, he’s objecting to “unanimous consent,” the Senate process of rubber-stamping an entire bloc of nominees without a recorded vote.
Tuberville began blocking the promotions in March, arguing the Pentagon’s policy was unlawfully implemented without congressional approval. He’s vowed to not release his “hold” on the promotions until the policy is revoked.
The Pentagon’s policy provides three weeks of taxpayer-funded paid leave and reimbursement of travel expenses for military personnel and dependents who are seeking abortions. An estimate from the Rand Corp. predicts the number of abortions in the military eligible for taxpayer-covered expenses would skyrocket from 20 to more than 4,000 each year.
In addition to drawing attention to the Pentagon’s controversial abortion policy, the delay exposed the radical views of several military officers who would have otherwise escaped much scrutiny.
Schumer, meanwhile, has refused to schedule a vote any military nominee. Instead, he reserved time for confirmation votes on federal judges and executive branch nominees—even while complaining that Tuberville’s action “puts American security in jeopardy.”
He’s not alone in issuing such warnings.
In a May letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin wrote, “Delays in confirming our general and flag officers pose a clear risk to U.S. military readiness, especially at this critical time.”
And yet Austin last spoke to Tuberville more than two months ago on July 18, according to Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder, who falsely claimed that “our legislative affairs staff continues to remain in contact with the senator’s staff.”
In June, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked why the White House hadn’t worked out a compromise with the senator. She said, “I have to talk to our Office of [Legislative] Affairs. I do not know when the last time that they spoke to the senator.”
The following day, Tuberville confirmed he had heard nothing from Biden or the White House.
“I’ll tell you when the last time was—never. The White House has not reached out once in four months,” Tuberville said at the time. “No one has contacted me; there has not been one conversation, no path forward.”
Tuberville said the same is true of Schumer. Despite being his colleague and Senate majority leader since January 2021, Schumer made no effort to even speak with Tuberville before attacking him on the Senate floor this March.
Writing for The Daily Signal earlier this month, Heritage Action’s Ryan Walker said it would cost Schumer a mere two hours of floor time for each nominee.
“If Schumer truly believes that not confirming these promotions ‘puts American security in jeopardy,’ he could circumvent the holds simply by filing cloture on the most important promotions and allow the Senate to consider them,” Walker wrote.
Schumer didn’t make the move, but Tuberville will. He plans to file his motion Wednesday afternoon.