Sullivan calls for compromise to end Alabama senator’s block on military promotions over abortion policy

WASHINGTON — Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s holds on military promotions are his “right,” and called for compromise to resolve the blockade.

“Every senator has the right to place holds on nominees on an issue of policy importance,” Sullivan said during an appearance on “Meet the Press” on Sunday. “I certainly have done this myself.”

Tuberville, a Republican, has stalled over 250 military nominations since February — including the commandant of the Marine Corps — in an attempt to pressure the Biden administration to stop reimbursing service members’ abortion travel expenses. His holds have raised concerns from top Pentagon officials about military readiness and drawn blowback from Senate Democrats. President Joe Biden has called on Republicans to lean on Tuberville to back down.

The holds pit two issues important to Sullivan — national security and abortion — against each other. Sullivan is a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve and ranking member on the Senate Armed Services readiness subcommittee. He has also supported limits on abortion access, including the overturning of Roe v. Wade.

Individual senators can hold up nominations by objecting to unanimous consent. Sullivan has a history of holding up nominees for political leverage.

In response to a question about Tuberville’s holds, Sullivan said on “Meet the Press” that the biggest threat to national security is the Biden administration’s proposed military spending budget and pointed to a hold Illinois Democratic Sen. Tammy Duckworth had on 1,000 military promotions in 2020, which lasted less than two weeks.

Sullivan called for negotiation between Senate leadership, the Pentagon and Tuberville.


“Every single one of these kind of holds, 99% of them get resolved through compromise. And what needs to happen, the secretary of Defense, Senator Tuberville, Chuck Schumer need to sit down and have that pass,” Sullivan told host Chuck Todd.

Sullivan did not respond to a question from the Daily News about his position on rolling back the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members for abortion travel.

In a Tuesday statement, he denounced what he called “the Biden administration’s unprecedented politicization” of the Armed Forces. He criticized specific administration military policies on issues that he said have “nothing to do with warfighting and lethality” including climate change, racism and gender-affirming surgeries for troops.

Sullivan also said Senate leadership could bypass the holds by filing cloture and cutting off debate on the nominees individually, which would take up time on the Senate floor.

Unlike Sullivan, Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski has criticized Tuberville’s holds.

“I am not really liking the direction things are going right now. We are starting to see more members that are saying, ‘I am just going to do a blanket hold,’” Murkowski told CNN last month. “Are we all gonna start taking hostages now?”

Murkowski’s office did not respond to questions about the holds and Pentagon abortion policy in time for this story.

The underlying policy may be debated as an amendment to the Senate version of the National Defense Authorization Act, though it is unlikely to pass the Democrat-controlled Senate, and Tuberville has suggested a vote may not be enough to compel him to lift the holds.

The House of Representatives passed an amendment to the defense bill that would ban reimbursements for service members’ abortion-related travel. Alaska Democratic Rep. Mary Peltola was sick and missed the amendment vote, but voted against the House defense package in opposition to that and other policies.

“We shouldn’t be pitting pay raises that they deserve against the reproductive freedoms that they also deserve. That is a false choice, created for purely political reasons,” Peltola said in a Friday statement.

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Riley Rogerson

Riley Rogerson is a reporter for the Anchorage Daily News based in Washington, D.C., and is a fellow with Report for America. Contact her at rrogerson@adn.com.