Tuesday, October 3, 2023
Tuesday, October 3, 2023

Dems look to McConnell to help deal with Tuberville’s tantrum

by admin
Dems look to McConnell to help deal with Tuberville’s tantrum

This is the last week in which members of Congress will be on Capitol Hill ahead of their summer break, which means senators only have a few days remaining to confirm hundreds of U.S. military nominees who are currently being blocked by Sen. Tommy Tuberville. If not, these servicemen and women, and their families, will remain stuck in limbo until after Labor Day, at the earliest.

With this in mind, Senate Democrats are feeling increasingly desperate to find a solution and stop the Alabama Republican from doing additional damage to his own country’s military. NBC News reported yesterday:

A key group of Senate Democrats urged Minority Leader Mitch McConnell on Monday morning to exercise his authority as head of the Senate GOP and “prevail” to end Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s “reckless hold” on military nominations.

“We write you today to share our deep concern for the stability of our Armed Services and national security and call on you to exercise your leadership to protect the readiness of our military,” the senators wrote.

They went on to tell the Kentucky Republican, “We know you share our concerns about the consequences of this hold on our Armed Services, and as the leader of your conference, we urge you to take stronger action to resolve this situation.”

The letter was spearheaded by Sen. Mazie Hirono of Hawaii, but she was joined by Democratic Sens. Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Tammy Duckworth of Illinois Tim Kaine of Virginia, Mark Kelly of Arizona, Jacky Rosen of Nevada, and Elizabeth Warren of Massachusetts. Sen. Angus King of Maine, an independent who caucuses with Democrats, also signed the letter.

McConnell hasn’t yet responded, but the minority leader’s press secretary said online, “Did Democrats forget that they’re in the majority and control the floor?”

As I suspect McConnell’s office knows, it’s not nearly that simple. There is, of course, a narrow Democratic majority, but we’re talking about uncontroversial military nominees who would ordinarily be approved in a group by unanimous consent. As a recent Washington Post editorial explained, “Holds cannot ultimately stop confirmations, but breaking through them requires significant and valuable Senate floor time — typically two or three days per nomination.”

Given the hundreds of nominees Tuberville is currently holding up, this is a confirmation process that should take hours, but which would instead take months.

As we’ve discussed, Democrats have tried to offer the Alabaman offramps. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer last week raised the specter of a floor vote on Tuberville’s preferred policy, which would mean ending travel reimbursements for troops who need to travel for reproductive care. As the New York Democrat saw it, this would give the Republican a chance to make the case for his approach and then allow his colleagues to vote on whether to approve it.

Tuberville said that wouldn’t be good enough, adding that the only solution is for the Pentagon to give in to his anti-abortion demands. Given the painfully obvious fact that the coach-turned-politician isn’t the commander in chief of the U.S. armed forces, the Department of Defense doesn’t seem to like his preferred resolution.

Soon after, Tuberville suggested that the Pentagon should simply scrap the benefits for the troops, as he demands, at which point the Senate could vote on whether to revive the policy. That’s a non-starter, too: Such a measure obviously couldn’t get 60 votes.

He then appeared on a conservative media outlet and said the administration needs to “find a way” to make him happy — or apparently he’ll continue to undermine the interests of his own country’s military.

And so, Democrats and their allies are turning to Senate Republicans — whom Tuberville has said have applied “zero“ pressure on him.

If McConnell ignores yesterday’s letter, which seems likely, Schumer has raised the specter of keeping the chamber in session. Watch this space.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.

Steve Benen

Steve Benen is a producer for “The Rachel Maddow Show,” the editor of MaddowBlog and an MSNBC political contributor. He’s also the bestselling author of “The Impostors: How Republicans Quit Governing and Seized American Politics.”

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