Tuberville to try going around his own blockade to confirm Marine commandant

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) told senators that he will attempt to force a one-off vote on Wednesday to confirm Gen. Eric Smith to become the new commandant for the Marine Corps while he maintains his blockade on more than 300 military promotions.

Tuberville told Senate Republicans on Tuesday during their weekly conference lunch that he will go to the floor and attempt to bring Smith’s nomination up for consideration, which would tee up a cloture vote unless Senate Democrats object to his effort.

“In a meager way, it’s progress,” one Senate Republican told The Hill about Tuberville’s push.

The senator noted that another member of the conference was planning to force the one-off vote, but Tuberville stepped up to do it himself.

The Daily Signal first reported Tuberville’s plans.

A total of 17 GOP senators, including the former Auburn University football coach, signed a petition launched by Tuberville to back a cloture motion on the floor. Most of those who signed the petition are fellow Senate conservatives. Sixteen signatures are needed to present a cloture motion on the floor.

Gen. David Berger stepped down from the post in mid-July, leaving the Marines without a Senate-confirmed leader for the first time in over 150 years due to Tuberville’s ongoing hold over the Pentagon’s policy enacted last year that covers the travel expenses of service members to seek abortion care.

Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) had attempted to force a vote on Smith’s nomination prior to the August recess, but Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) dissuaded the push as Republicans sought an offramp with Tuberville to end his hold.

It is unclear whether Senate Democrats will object to the motion. The party has maintained that it does not have plans to hold one-off votes on top military leaders and has yet to say whether he will do so for Gen. Charles “C.Q.” Brown to replace Mark Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Milley’s term expires on Oct. 1.

Democrats have laid responsibility at the feet of Senate Republicans to find a deal to end Tuberville’s hold. McConnell has made clear that he does not agree with Tuberville’s tactics, but has been unable to find a way to end the hold that has lasted for more than six months.

“It doesn’t bother me,” Tuberville said of McConnell’s stance on the blockade. “I work for the people of Alabama. They want a voice to say what happens with taxpayer money.”

The Alabama Republican added that he has not talked about the situation with anyone from the Pentagon since July.

“Zero. Nilch. None. Crickets,” Tuberville told reporters on Tuesday. “They know where I stand. I’m not changing my mind.”

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