Biden slams Tuberville’s blockade of Pentagon nominees

The president’s comments come as hundreds of top military positions are now without a Senate-confirmed permanent officeholder, among them the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the commandant of the Marine Corps. The vacancies, accumulating as top officials reach retirement age, have typically been nominated and confirmed by the Senate in slates.

Tuberville initiated the hold earlier this year in response to a policy announcement from the Department of Defense that it would pay the costs servicemembers incurred if they had to travel out of state to obtain reproductive care. According to Tuberville, that decision late last year contravenes the Supreme Court’s reversal of Roe v. Wade. Tuberville has vowed to maintain the hold until Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin ends the policy or Senate leadership holds a straightforward vote on the issue.

“I’m not trying to stop any confirmations. I’m not trying to be hard-headed about this. I want some conversation and get a reasonable explanation of why we’re doing this,” Tuberville said in an interview on CNN on Monday.

Frustrations have mounted with Tuberville over the hold. In June, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre warned that the hold was “putting military readiness at risk.” Military leaders have also publicly warned the prolonged hold could lead to brain drain from the military. Republicans on Capitol Hill have also begun distancing themselves from the hold, with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell voicing his opposition to the hold in May.

Biden on Thursday called on Republicans to put a stop to the hold, saying that he expects “the Republican Party to stand up and do something about it. It’s within their power to do that.”

“I’m confident that the mainstream of the Republican Party no longer — does not support what he’s doing, but they’ve got to stand up and be counted. That’s how it ends,” Biden continued.

Tuberville shows no signs of backing down. He has dismissed Republican efforts to settle the hold as part of the National Defense Authorization Act. Tuberville and his allies also reject the claims that military readiness is imperiled by the hold and maintain that the hold only prevents unanimous consideration of the slate of nominees. The nomination for the Joint Chiefs is also not included in the hold. Senate leadership, they argue, is not prevented under his hold from scheduling individual votes on the nominees.

“We can take each one of those nominations one at a time. The commandant for the Marine Corps could be voted on today and passed out. But they’re one at a time,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.) said Tuesday on CNN.