The Senate on Thursday worked around Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-Ala.) blanket blockade of high-level military promotions to confirm three top officers, including the first woman elevated to the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Bipartisan frustration is publicly surfacing over Tuberville's monthslong hold, which is leaving another 376 admirals and generals in the lurch and key military positions vacant.
"We are going to look back at this episode and just be stunned at what a national-security suicide mission this became," Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) said Wednesday night, during an extraordinary public rebuke of Tuberville by five Republican colleagues.
Adm. Lisa Franchetti was confirmed as Navy chief of staff and Gen. David Allvin was elevated to head of the Air Force in 95-1 votes. The Senate also confirmed Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, 85-0, as the No. 2 Marine Corps officer, under Commandant Gen. Eric Smith, currently hospitalized after suffering apparent cardiac arrest on Sunday. The promotion of Franchetti and Allvin gives the Joint Chiefs its first full slate of Senate-confirmed officers since July.
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Wednesday night's public pillorying from his own party "was brutal for the senator from Alabama," but "it was a relatively small number of Tuberville's GOP colleagues taking this stand," Aaron Blake wrote at The Washington Post. Republicans probably need to up the pressure more broadly — or help Democrats sidestep Tuberville and promote most or all of the remaining military officers in one bloc.
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.) are spearheading a motion to temporarily suspend Senate rules for this narrow group of military officers, but it needs 60 votes to pass, meaning at least nine Republicans would need to sign on. Lots of Senate Republicans agree Tuberville's hold needs to end, but it's unclear if nine will back the Democrats' motion. Republicans agreed Thursday to hold a special conference next week to specifically discuss the Tuberville situation, Punchbowl News reported.
Tuberville's staff is clearly "worried that at least nine Republicans might join with Democrats" to pass the resolution, because his communications director emailed anti-abortion groups urging them to primary any Republican "squishes" who vote for the measure, Politico reported. Tuberville said he had no part in the email, and no plans to lift the hold. "I've been doing this for nine months and all of a sudden they're mad?" he told the Post.
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