Sen. Chris Murphy (D-Conn.) on Tuesday accused Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) of being “prepared to burn the military down” with his hold on hundreds of military promotions over the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
Murphy told reporters at the Capitol that he is hoping Senate Republicans will work with Democrats after the August recess to come up with a “creative solution” to pass a batch of military promotions en bloc in an attempt to bypass Tuberville’s hold, which entered its fifth month Tuesday.
“I think everybody’s been hoping that Sen. Tuberville would back down, and I think we have to come to the conclusion that that is not happening and that he is prepared to burn the military down,” Murphy said after gaveling the Senate in and out during Tuesday’s pro forma session. “Maybe Republicans were hopeful that leading up to the August break he would relent. He didn’t, and we now have to adjust our strategy.”
Senate Republicans were unable to strike a deal with the Alabama senator to break the hold prior to the August recess, which has virtually ensured that the hold will stretch until early September at least. In the meantime, nearly 300 military holds remain, including for Senate-confirmed officers to lead the Army and the Marine Corps.
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That list will grow larger by the end of September, when the highest-profile vacancy would come up: Gen. Mark Milley must lawfully depart as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Gen. Charles “CQ” Brown Jr. is in line to replace him.
Murphy called on Senate Republicans to discuss a “very targeted, temporary change in process” that would allow lawmakers to pass a batch of military promotions en bloc, though he noted he has not discussed this idea with Senate Democratic leaders. He also dismissed any possibility of Democrats moving to confirm promotions individually due to the amount of floor time it would take to do so, and he echoed the Democratic leadership argument that the issue needs to be dealt with by top Republicans.
“I understand Republicans are not going to go for a permanent change in the rules, but I just think we have to start thinking creatively about breaking this logjam,” said Murphy, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee. “There is no world in which we can use floor time for these nominations. It’s logistically impossible to do these nominations through regular order.”
“Maybe when we get back in September there will be some openness to creative solutions. Tuberville is not going to back down. He thinks he’s become a celebrity folk hero in the fringe right,” Murphy continued. “He’s having the time of his life. If you want the military to function, you’re going to have to find a creative way to get around this guy because it doesn’t feel like he’s backing down.”
Tuberville has been lauded back home for his opposition to the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which allows military members to be reimbursed for travel to seek abortion care. The Alabama Republican Party’s Executive Committee passed a resolution Saturday, 99-1, backing the former Auburn University football coach’s efforts to nix the Department of Defense’s policy.
However, his push has earned criticism from some corners of his own party. GOP presidential candidate and former South Carolina Gov. Nikki Haley labeled the holds as “shameful” Tuesday morning.
“It goes to the heart of: We don’t treat our military men and women, servicemen and women well. We don’t treat our veterans well,” Haley told radio host Hugh Hewitt.