Tuberville blockade finally ends with confirmations of top military leaders

By: - December 19, 2023 8:52 pm

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., speaks to members of the press at the U.S. Capitol on Nov. 15, 2023 in Washington, D.C. Tuberville’s months-long blockade of military nominees ended on Dec. 19, 2023, with the confirmation of 11 top military leaders. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

WASHINGTON — The U.S. Senate on Tuesday night approved the remainder of the military nominations that Sen. Tommy Tuberville had continued to block, even after the Alabama Republican lifted his monthslong freeze of hundreds of armed services promotions in protest of a Pentagon abortion policy.

Majority Leader Chuck Schumer on the floor asked for unanimous consent for the confirmations of several four-star generals and “all nominations on the Secretary’s Desk in the Air Force, Army, Marine Corps, Navy, and Space Force.”

Among the nominees confirmed: Gen. Kenneth S. Wilsbach as Air Force Commander, Air Combat Command in Virginia; Gen. Gregory M. Guillot as Commander, United States Northern Command in Colorado; Gen. Timothy D. Haugh as Commander, United States Cyber Command in Maryland; and Gen. Stephen N. Whiting as Commander, United States Space Command in Colorado.

No senator objected, as has been routine prior to the Tuberville blockade for how the upper chamber approved large groups of military promotions.

Schumer called the final confirmations “good news.”

Earlier in the day, Schumer highlighted on the floor that last week the Senate had approved retroactive pay for the nominees who were caught in the larger bloc of holds. The bill has not reached the House.

“Providing back pay for these military families was the very, very least the Senate could do to right this awful wrong, and I am glad we did it,” Schumer said.

Tuberville was one of the original co-sponsors of the bill.

The bill was introduced by Sens. Mike Rounds, a South Dakota Republican, and Joe Manchin, retiring West Virginia Democrat.

For the majority of 2023, Tuberville had been the only senator to object to a growing list of nominations, for an unprecedented 10 months.

The former Auburn University football coach relented on Dec. 5, except for a handful of four-star general nominees in line for top leadership spots in the U.S. armed forces.

By late November the list of nominees affected by Tuberville’s monthslong hold had grown to 451 members of the military, according to a Department of Defense official. Majority staff for the Senate Armed Services Committee listed 445 affected nominees at the time.

Tuberville’s protest of abortion policy

Tuberville blocked the nominations as a protest against a recent Pentagon policy that allows armed services members time off and travel reimbursement should they need to seek an abortion in a state where it remains legal.

Roughly 80,000 active-duty female service members are stationed in states where legislatures enacted full or partial bans following the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, according to a RAND analysis.

The Biden administration and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin maintain the policy is legal, as did a 2022 Department of Justice opinion.

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Ashley Murray
Ashley Murray

Ashley Murray covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include domestic policy and appropriations.