Tuberville says military promotion hold will apply to Biden's Joint Chiefs nominee

Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) hold on senior military promotions in protest of the Pentagon's new abortion policy will apply to the nomination of Air Force Gen. Charles Brown, Jr. as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, his spokesman told the Washington Examiner.

Tuberville has blocked the nominations of more than 200 general and flag officers over the policy, which pays for the travel costs and time off of service members who must travel out of state to receive an abortion due to restrictive laws. The Defense Department enacted the rule last year in response to the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade, which had guaranteed nationwide abortion access for nearly half a century.

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Brown's nomination, announced by President Joe Biden on Thursday, has been met with bipartisan support. This includes positive reaction from the Alabama senator, whose spokesman said that Tuberville "has a great deal of respect for" the Air Force general. Respect and admiration were not enough to convince the senator to change course, however, with his spokesman telling the Washington Examiner that "the hold applies to all two-stars and above."

Tommy Tuberville
Sen. Tommy Tuberville. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)

DOD nominees that require Senate confirmation are typically approved in batches, usually without objection, to avoid a severely prolonged process. While Tuberville lacks the power permanently to block the nominees, he can significantly delay their confirmations. The first-term senator has vowed to continue his effort until the Pentagon reverses its policy, sparking bipartisan concern over the implications of leaving so many high-level positions unfilled.

Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) has distanced himself from Tuberville's actions, telling reporters earlier this month, "I don't support putting a hold on military nominations. I don't support that."

Gen. Mark Milley's term doesn't end until October, though it is common for the president to choose a successor six or so months in advance to allow time for Senate confirmation. With the Tuberville blockade firmly in place, the Senate will need all the time it can get to push Brown's nomination through the chamber.

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Tuberville's spokesman pointed to Milley's 2019 confirmation process when addressing the senator's current hold, noting to the Washington Examiner that the Joint Chiefs chairman was approved by an up-or-down roll-call vote. Brown's nomination to the post could be voted on in the same way, meaning the Air Force general would be approved regardless of the opposition from one senator.

"Everyone is acting like we would UC this nomination," the spokesman said. "I don't think that's the historical precedent."

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