Washington — The Senate confirmed promotions for hundreds of military officers Tuesday after Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville dropped his hold that had delayedfor months.
Senators approved 425 promotions by voice vote hours after Tuberville said he would allow nominations to proceed for all officers below the rank of four stars. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said the vote meant that "hundreds of military families across the country can breathe a sigh of relief."
"I'm happy that after so much unnecessary delay by one senator we have finally moved forward and given these men and women the promotions they deserve, and we will work to confirm the rest of the nominees that were on hold very soon," Schumer said.
Senate tradition allows any senator to block a nomination through the use of a hold, an informal practice that allows members to state their intention to block floor actions that might otherwise be approved unanimously. Since Tuberville began his hold in February to protest a Pentagon abortion policy, the backlog of nominations grew to affect over 450 officers.
"I'm not going to hold the promotions of these people any longer," Tuberville told reporters Tuesday. "We just released them, about 440 of them. Everybody but 10 or 11 four-stars."
In a statement praising the confirmations, President Biden called Tuberville's hold "politically motivated."
"These confirmations are long overdue, and should never have been held up in the first place," Biden said. "Our service members are the backbone of our country and deserve to receive the pay and promotions they have earned. In the end, this was all pointless."
Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. Gen. Patrick Ryder said the Pentagon was "encouraged by the news" but urged the Senate to also move on the remaining nominations of nearly a dozen four-star officers. Ryder noted that some of the key four-star nominees include the heads of U.S. Pacific Fleet, U.S. Pacific Air Forces, U.S. Northern Command, U.S. Cyber Command and U.S. Space Command.
John Kirby, a National Security Council spokesman, told CBS News the White House was glad the impasse had come to an end, but expressed the need to confirm four-star generals "as soon as possible."
"First of all, obviously we're glad to see that the hold's going to get lifted," Kirby said. "That will free up these several hundred officers. They now move on with their lives, take new assignments, lead our troops in critical missions. But we've got to get those four stars confirmed as well, because they're leading at the very top leadership level. They're responsible for some very, very strategic issues around the world."
Tuberville's hold was a way to protest a Pentagon policy on abortion that reimburses travel expenses for service members who have to travel to seek an abortion or other types of reproductive health care. For months, Tuberville said he would drop his hold when the Pentagon changed its policy.
He said Senate leadership will now bring the four-star nominations to the floor one by one.
In recent months, Tuberville has faced increasing pressure to drop his objection, even from his Republican colleagues. In November, a group of GOP senatorsto tell Tuberville that while they agreed with his objection to this Pentagon policy, they disagreed that a hold is the way to solve it.
After the Supreme Court's overturning of Roe v. Wade in 2022 led some states to enact abortion bans, the Pentagon announced it would reimburse travel expenses for service members who need to travel to seek an abortion or other types of reproductive health care.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has made the point that service members don't get to decide where they're stationed, and many bases in the U.S. are in states, like Alabama, that have increasingly restricted access to abortion.
The policy does not pay for abortions. A provision of federal law known as the Hyde Amendment prevents Defense Department facilities from performing abortions except for in the case of rape, incest or to protect the health of the mother.
for more features.