Republican senators faced frustration on Wednesday evening as they tried to confirm numerous military officers up for promotions. This escalated an ongoing dispute with fellow Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville.
Several GOP senators took turns over the course of more than four hours attempting to confirm 61 promotions, one-by-one, via unanimous consent. This forced Mr. Tuberville to remain on the Senate floor late into the night to object.
This tense episode highlighted the growing irritation, even among Republican colleagues, with Mr. Tuberville.
For nearly 10 months, the Alabama Republican has protested a Pentagon abortion policy by holding a blanket blockade against all military promotions. This has resulted in the blocking of nearly 400 promotions that would otherwise be confirmed without controversy.
The Republicans calling for the confirmations were visibly infuriated, with Sen. Dan Sullivan, an Alaska Republican, at times shouting.
“This is not a joke,” said Mr. Sullivan, a colonel in the U.S. Marine Corps Reserve. “You’re watching the experience of America’s greatest military generation since probably World War II flushing down river.”
Mr. Tuberville has stated that Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer could bypass his blockade by holding roll call votes on each nominee. However, Sen. Schumer has largely refused to do so because it would consume a significant amount of floor time.
“Bringing the nominees individually to the floor of the United States Senate to be voted on, I anticipated that a man of his word would honor his word,” said Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican and combat veteran. “This was not time wasted tonight. I will do this all over again.”
Republican Sens. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina and Todd Young of Indiana, who are also veterans, had their confirmation requests blocked by Mr. Tuberville.
Earlier on Wednesday, under pressure, Sen. Schumer moved forward with confirmation votes for President Biden’s nominees for top positions in the Air Force, Navy, and Marine Corps. He also hopes to bypass other holds from Mr. Tuberville by implementing a temporary rule change that would allow for a vote en bloc on a large group of lesser-known military assignments. However, this would require the support of at least nine Republicans.
Mr. Tuberville dismissed accusations on Wednesday that his blocking of senior-level promotions has jeopardized the health of military officers and U.S. national security, despite repeated warnings from the Defense Department.
“They’re really looking for something to blame it on other than themselves. They could have had all these people confirmed if they had just gone with the Constitution,” Mr. Tuberville said. “They’re just looking for any possible way to get themselves out of a jam.”
The Pentagon policy under the Biden administration funds travel and expenses for service members who go to other states for abortions. Mr. Tuberville argues that this is illegal.
Critics of Mr. Tuberville from within the Republican party disagree with the policy but argue that blocking nominees who have no connection to it is harming the U.S. military.
In a heated exchange, Mr. Graham responded to Mr. Tuberville: “If you think it’s illegal, go to court!”
• Mike Glenn contributed to this report.