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Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama announced Tuesday that he would lift his monthslong block on more than 400 military promotions – a move he had initiated in objection to a Defense Department policy that allows travel for service members seeking abortions or reproductive care.
The senator said he would release his hold on most of the promotions — with an exception of those who are up for a four-star ranking. “Those will continue,” he told reporters.
The Defense Department policy remains the same as it did pre-blockade: In a post-Roe landscape where states set their own abortion policies, the Pentagon will continue to pay travel costs for service members who need to cross state lines for abortion or reproductive care.
For most of the year, Tuberville, a Republican, blocked the promotions of all general and flag officers pending on the Senate floor, leaving crucial leadership posts vacant. Many lawmakers, advocates and military leaders argued that the vacancies were a threat to national security — particularly after the Marine Corps commandant had a heart attack in the weeks following the start of the war in Gaza, leaving vital posts unoccupied. Senate leaders chose to circumvent the blocks for a handful of promotions related to top positions in the Joint Chiefs of Staff, including Adm. Lisa Franchetti, the new head of the Navy and the first woman to hold the position.
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The military holds have had a cascading effect: When high-level officers cannot assume command, everyone under those commands is also put in limbo. Families told The 19th that the uncertainty affected their housing situations, school plans and finances.
Kathy Roth-Douquet, the chief executive of Blue Star Families, said that the organization, a nonprofit that serves and advocates for military households, was grateful to the senators who helped work toward the end of the military holds.
“Over the course of this ill-advised stunt, Sen. Tuberville’s actions have harmed national security by causing enormous, force-wide, cascading effects that impacted planning and operations, and placed countless military families into hardship, around the world,” Roth-Douquet said in a statement. “Many military families strongly told us in a survey this summer that this promotion block has caused them to reconsider their perspective on military service, decreasing their willingness to recommend military service to others or even remain in military service themselves.”
Lawmakers from both parties worked for months to persuade Tuberville to change his mind, and many expressed relief that most of the promotions would proceed.
“I do want to stress that these men and women — and their families — have been going through this for 10 months,” Sen. Joni Ernst, an Iowa Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, told reporters ahead of Tuberville’s announcement, according to The Wall Street Journal. “They have not known what the rest of their life is going to look like for the past 10 months.”
Tuberville blamed the Pentagon and White House for “creating the problem,” by allowing the Defense Department policy to continue, but as months passed with no progress and anger grew on both sides of the aisle, the senator ultimately backed down without achieving his goal.
“We did the right thing for the unborn and for our military, fighting back against executive overreach,” he told reporters.