Former football coach and mediocre white guy Tommy Tuberville (R-MS), currently fighting for the Dumbest Person in Congress title against several of his Republican colleagues in the House and Senate, has continued his one-man blockade in the Senate against confirming the promotions of general and flag officers across the US military. As a consequence, for the first time in a century, the US Marine Corps has no Commandant:
[Commandant General David] Berger, whose four-year tour as the Marines’ top officer came to an end, was supposed to hand the reins over to Gen. Eric Smith, who has been nominated for the job. Instead, Smith will run the Corps on a temporary basis while he waits for Senate confirmation, thanks to the hold. Because he’s not confirmed, Smith will have to hold off on making any making strategic decisions for the service. He will also simultaneously serve in his current position as the Marine Corps’ No. 2.
Tuberville, an Alabama Republican and Senate Armed Services Committee member, placed the hold in protest of the Pentagon’s new policy that pays travel expenses for troops if they cannot obtain abortions in their state. He has also voiced frustration that President Joe Biden has yet to reach out to discuss the matter.
The senator’s procedural holds mean that senior officers across the military are unable to move their families to their new assignments, and in many cases are losing out on the pay raises that promotions entail.
Berger is the first of four members of the eight-member Joint Chiefs of Staff who will begin retiring this year. With the hold in place, half the chiefs, the leaders of the Army, Navy and Marine Corps, along with the chair, will have no confirmed successor in the seat to replace them.
Obviously the US Marine Corps can function with only an acting Commandant for a while. But because Tuberville has stopped almost 300 promotions to O7 and above, critical lower-level posts have gone unstaffed as well. (Let's just forget for a moment that arcane Senate rules, specifically designed to halt legislative business far beyond the "cooling saucer" envisioned by the founders, allows this to happen.)
Yesterday, US Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) had this to say about the Coach:
This hold is unnecessary, unprecedented, and, at a critical time in national security, it is driving the U.S. military to a potential breaking point. It is also an affront to the military and their families, who so many of us just lauded for their sacrifices during the Fourth of July festivities. My colleagues thanked them profusely, but do not recognize that they are professional officers who deserve consideration, not as political chips but as men and women of our services.
Those of my colleagues who support this unprecedented delay are themselves politicizing the military by the very nature of their actions. These promotions have always been confirmed by unanimous consent very soon after being reported to the floor or, on the rare occasion, a single overwhelming vote without cloture. But now, in refusing to confirm these promotions, the uniformed military, previously and appropriately shielded from partisan politics, is being thrust into the midst of politics. This behavior was once reserved only for individual political appointees, civilian political appointees on specific matters of dispute, usually with some reasonable or negotiable outcome. No more. It seems it is ‘‘my way’’ or no way at all. And that is a sad demonstration of individual hubris.
The Senator from Alabama often says if we really wanted these generals and admirals, we would just vote, but I would like to explain that. The Senator is not allowing a simple vote; he is demanding cloture first on every nomination. So we asked the Congressional Research Service what it would take to process 251 nominations with cloture. They estimate to file cloture on all the nominations being held, it would take approximately 5 hours. Then 2 days later, the Senate could start voting.
It will take approximately 668 hours to confirm all these military nominations. That is 27 days if the Senate works around the clock, 24 hours a day. If the Senate just did military nominations for 8 hours a day, it would take 84 days. So ‘‘just vote’’ is not an answer. This is not a feasible solution to this issue.
Right now, a number of military officers who were planning to retire are on an indefinite hold because they have no one confirmed to take their jobs. Others want to go to new commands but cannot for the same reason. Their families cannot move to their new homes. Their children cannot get ready for a new school. Their spouses cannot take new jobs.
This is not a game. These are real lives that have been upended. Due to the pure obstinacy of the Senator from Alabama, the Senate is, in effect, holding thousands of loyal members of the U.S. military and their families in limbo. I believe we owe them more than that.
Hear, hear. This isn't a game to anyone but Tuberville. But it's kind of what we'd expect from a mediocre old white guy from Alabama, isn't it? Except...weren't the Republicans the party of military preparedness a few years ago? I guess we have always been at war with Oceania after all...