Tuberville Blockade Finally Concludes with Confirmation of 11 Remaining Four-Star Generals and Admirals

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December 20, 2023
Newly promoted Brig. Gen. Brian R. Moore, Oklahoma City Air Logistics Complex commander, receives the oath of office at Tinker Air Force Base, Okla.

All four-star military officers whose promotions Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., vowed to continue delaying have now been confirmed by the Senate, ending a nearly yearlong saga where Tuberville entangled the military chain of command in his protest over the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

In a voice vote Tuesday evening, the Senate confirmed the 11 four-star general and admiral nominees whom Tuberville originally said he’d continue stalling, as well as five other one- and three-stars who had yet to be confirmed as the Senate worked to clear the backlog that began easing when Tuberville announced he would largely end his blockade earlier this month.

The newly confirmed four-stars include the vice chiefs of the Army, Space Force, Navy and Air Force, as well as commanders to lead Northern Command, Space Command and Cyber Command.

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Tuberville had spent most of the year blocking quick confirmation of senior military officer nominees in an ill-fated effort to get the Pentagon to reverse its policy of covering travel expenses and providing leave for service members seeking abortions and other reproductive care.

As it became clear that some of his Senate Republican colleagues would side with Democrats to temporarily change chamber rules to circumvent his blockade, Tuberville announced he was dropping his hold on most of the nominees despite winning no changes in the Pentagon’s abortion policy. Hours later, the Senate confirmed 425 officers who had been waiting for promotions.

Still, Tuberville insisted he would maintain his hold on nominees to be four-star officers, arguing they should be subject to more “vetting.”

But as senators grew more antsy to begin their holiday break, his remaining objections faded away. Earlier Tuesday, Senate Majority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed, D-R.I., had promised to stay in session until all the remaining nominees were confirmed.

While Tuberville is no longer delaying any military nominees, the Senate’s nominations website showed that five one-, two- and three-star nominees were still unconfirmed as of Wednesday morning. The Senate has no more roll-call votes this year but is staying in session Wednesday for “housekeeping business” and voice votes, providing one more day before the end of the year that they could be confirmed.

After Tuberville announced he was mostly dropping his holds earlier this month, Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., said he would place a new hold on a few of the nominees over allegations they were placing undue energy on diversity initiatives. All but one of the nominees Schmitt named have now been confirmed. The one-star nominee Schmitt is still holding has been targeted by conservative groups over an op-ed he wrote in 2020, arguing that white officers such as himself may be blind to institutional racism.

Tuberville is also maintaining his hold on civilian Pentagon nominees, but delaying civilian confirmation has become a common form of protest by members of both parties in recent years and is unlikely to provoke the same heartburn that delaying military nominees did. Right now, just one civilian Pentagon nominee is pending before the Senate: Ronald Keohane to be assistant secretary for manpower and reserve affairs.

While the standoff over military confirmations is over, cleanup from the episode continues. The Senate last week approved a bill to give all the delayed officers back pay for the time they were waiting for their promotions to be approved, but the House still needs to approve the bill.

The Pentagon has also said it could take some time to move all the newly confirmed officers into the correct place.

“It’s not just flicking a switch and suddenly everyone moves into these new positions,” Pentagon press secretary Maj. Gen. Patrick Ryder, whose own promotion was caught in the Tuberville hold, said earlier this month. “You have to consider things like when people can move, where the people that are moving out of the positions are going. And so all of that has to be carefully orchestrated and done in a way that enables us to continue to conduct the operations without having significant impact, not only on the mission but also on the individual family members.”

Related: 7 More Generals, Admirals Get Promotions Approved as Senate Chips Away at Tuberville Backlog

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