WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski condemned fellow Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s extended blockade on more than 300 military promotions over his objections to a Pentagon abortion policy.
Tuberville has held up the military promotions for nine months in an effort to pressure the Biden administration to stop reimbursing service members’ abortion travel expenses. The blanket holds have raised national security concerns as several top military jobs are vacant.
Murkowski — a moderate who has backed abortion access protections — outlined her position in a social media post after she said a quote supporting Tuberville’s holds was mistakenly attributed to her in USA Today.
“Holding military nominations hostage is not a winning tactic for anyone, especially in light of retention challenges and the very real threats we face in the Pacific and elsewhere,” Murkowski said. “These holds are starting to have cascading impacts that are degrading our national security.”
“Senator Tuberville should drop them, now, and find another way to express his concerns,” she said.
In response to Murkowski’s statement, Tuberville spokesman Steven Stafford said he disputed “the characterization that delaying a promotion is analogous to a hostage taking and the premise that this is harming military readiness.”
Among the more than 300 stalled military promotions are three positions on the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including the heads of the U.S. Army, Navy and Marine Corps. The chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Army Gen. Mark Milley, is also set to retire at the end of the month.
Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee and a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, has repeatedly encouraged compromise between Senate Democratic leadership, the Pentagon and Tuberville to resolve the block.
Sullivan has put holds on certain nominees for political leverage in the past, but not to the scale of Tuberville’s extended blockade.
“Ninety-nine percent of the holds that I’ve been involved with, there’s usually both sides kind of saying, ‘Alright, let’s meet halfway. Let’s meet in the middle,’ ” he told reporters on Capitol Hill last week.
Tuberville has jammed the confirmation process by objecting to unanimous consent, which is typically how military promotions are quickly advanced. Sullivan and several other Republicans have advocated for Democrats, who control the Senate majority, to begin voting on military nominees individually as a workaround to Tuberville’s holds.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has resisted that strategy, which would take up time on the Senate floor, telling reporters at a press conference last week that the problem was “created by Republicans, and it’s up to them to solve it.”
Calling on Schumer to initiate the votes, Sullivan said, “It’s leadership. If you cared about the military, at the Joint Chiefs level, we could be confirming these guys and women.”