Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) said Wednesday that he does not support Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) blanket hold on more than 180 non-political military promotions, which Democrats say is keeping qualified people out of key roles.
“I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations, I don’t support that,” McConnell told reporters.
Tuberville has held up the promotions of 184 general and flag officers for weeks to protest the Defense Department’s abortion policy of providing paid leave and travel reimbursements to service members who have to cross state lines to obtain abortions and fertility treatments.
Asked whether there is a way to resolve the impasse, McConnell said: “You’ll have to ask Sen. Tuberville about that.”
McConnell said he doesn’t support the blockade of military promotions but added “as to why” they’re not moving, “you need to ask Sen. Tuberville.”
The GOP leader’s comments came after seven former secretaries of Defense sent a letter to the Senate last week warning the hold on promotions is “harming military readiness and risks damaging U.S. national security.”
The letter addressed to McConnell and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) warned “the current hold that has been in place now for several weeks is preventing key leaders from assuming important, senior command and staff positions around the world.”
The former Pentagon chiefs who signed the letter included William Perry, William Cohen, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta and Chuck Hagel.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin also blasted the broad hold as “irresponsible” and “unprecedented” in a separate letter.
“This indefinite hold harms America’s national security and hinders the Pentagon’s normal operations,” Austin warned. “The longer that this hold persists, the greater the risk the U.S. military runs in every theater, every domain, and every Service.”
Schumer cited the letters in a speech on the Senate floor Wednesday morning.
“I hope Senate Republicans read Secretary Austin’s letter and from the seven former secretaries of Defense and prevail on the senator from Alabama to get our military operating to its full capacity,” he said.
The Hill reported last month that some Senate Republican were growing weary of the standoff.
Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), the ranking member of the Defense Appropriations subcommittee, said Tuberville should have focused on political appointees instead of career military officials.
“I would prefer that Sen. Tuberville focus his holds on political appointees. They’re the ones who make the policy. I think that would be an equally effective and better approach, but obviously, the approach he chooses is up to him,” she said in April.