Senate Democrats have the option to bypass the ongoing delay on over 300 senior military nominees when they reconvene next month. However, completing the process would likely take until next spring. The leaders of the chamber have already dismissed this approach as difficult and impractical. They maintain that the most sensible way forward is for Senator Tommy Tuberville, a Republican from Alabama, to lift his blockade on the Defense Department confirmations.
Due to the need to fill leadership vacancies and the importance of these roles, senators may be required to vote on the first individual nominations for key military positions when they return in September.
Currently, three out of the eight Joint Chiefs of Staff positions are vacant, as Senate confirmation for replacements is being delayed by the conflict between Senator Tommy Tuberville and Pentagon leaders. The Army, Navy, and Marine Corps have selected their next uniformed leaders, but Senator Tommy Tuberville’s opposition to the military’s abortion access policy is causing a hold-up in their confirmations.
Over 300 other individuals have also been affected by the political dispute, with some being impacted since early March. Democratic leaders have strongly criticized Senator Tommy Tuberville’s actions and have appealed to Senate Republicans to intervene and resolve the deadlock.
Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, a Democrat from Rhode Island, stated earlier this month, “In a similar manner to how military officers hold each other accountable, it is now time for Senate Republican leaders to bring their colleague in line and put an end to this detrimental obstruction of merit-based military promotions.”
However, Senator Tommy Tuberville and his supporters have pointed out that Democratic lawmakers could resolve the issue by considering the nominations individually instead of insisting on a collective approval.
Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville is engaging in an extraordinary effort to alter the Pentagon’s abortion policy. He is doing so by obstructing numerous military nominations and promotions, resulting in less experienced individuals being placed in high-ranking positions. This has raised concerns within the Pentagon regarding military readiness.
Senator Tommy Tuberville’s objections are preventing the Senate from quickly approving large groups of non-controversial military nominees, which has been the usual practice to fill important national security positions promptly.
However, Senator Tommy Tuberville’s objections do not prevent leaders from scheduling votes on individual candidates, which he suggests his critics should advocate for. Senator Tommy Tuberville’s office stated on Aug. 17 that the supposed problem could be resolved if they wanted to, but they choose not to. They argue that as long as Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer refuses to vote on these nominations, Senate Democrats cannot complain about acting officials serving in senior military roles.
To accomplish this, a series of parliamentary actions would be necessary, taking several hours or even a few days. Earlier this summer, officials from the Senate Armed Services Committee estimated that it would take over 80 days of eight-hour Senate sessions to go through all the nominees. Additionally, since that estimate was made, 50 more nominees have been added to the existing backlog.
Considering that the Senate typically operates for only three full days a week, with senators spending the rest of their time in their home states, it would take until March 2024 for lawmakers to complete the entire list of defense nominees. This assumes no other tasks or responsibilities, such as the annual defense authorization bill and the new federal budget for the next fiscal year.
Earlier this week, Senator Ben Cardin, a Democrat from Maryland, stated to Politico that implementing such a plan is not possible due to time constraints. He emphasized that there is insufficient time on the calendar to vote on each promotion individually. Senator Cardin hopes that contested positions like judges and ambassadorships will receive individual votes, but military promotions, which are non-controversial, should not be subjected to this process as it would be a waste of time.