Sen. Lindsey Graham appears to be at his wit’s end with fellow Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville.
Mr. Graham warned during intense Senate floor exchanges among Republicans shortly after midnight Thursday that he could join Democrats to circumvent Mr. Tuberville‘s blockade against hundreds of military promotions over the Pentagon‘s abortion policy.
“I promise you this: This will be the last holiday this happens. If it takes me to vote to break loose these folks, I will,” Mr. Graham said. “To my pro-life friends: You’re not advancing this cause. You’re hurting this cause if the average American believes that the reason these people are getting blocked from promotion is because of a policy choice they didn’t make.”
The cautionary remarks from the South Carolina senator and Air Force veteran made him the first Republican to publicly say he’s inclined to support a legislative workaround, underscoring the swelling frustration among some GOP senators and the mounting pressure on Mr. Tuberville of Alabama.
Senate Majority Leader Charles E. Schumer, New York Democrat, will forge legislation after the Thanksgiving recess to confirm en bloc the roughly 450 pending nominees who have accumulated during Mr. Tuberville‘s 10-month hold. The measure advanced along party lines this week by the Senate Rules Committee amid GOP concerns of eroding any one senator’s power to block confirmations via unanimous consent.
However, Senate GOP Leader Mitch McConnell, who sits on the panel, left the door open to backing the unprecedented maneuver to end Mr. Tuberville‘s logjam. The Kentucky Republican stated he would “oppose going that route at this particular moment” after railing against Mr. Tuberville and the Pentagon policy that funds out-of-state travel for service members to receive an abortion.
“Inserting our military into the center of a politically divisive subject isn’t just an ill-advised policy choice. It’s actually dangerous,” Mr. McConnell said of the Pentagon.
Of Mr. Tuberville, he stated: “Any one of us can talk for days about the growing challenges we’re facing around the world, but none of it is worth a dime if we can’t put experienced commanders in command in a timely manner.”
Democrats will need at least nine GOP senators to vote with them. Mr. Tuberville said he continues to search for a solution to avoid the vote, but failing to produce an alternative could sway enough Republicans to cross the aisle.
“There’s some things I’m working on — hopefully — that it doesn’t get to that point,” Mr. Tuberville said Wednesday. “If I told you, it wouldn’t be a secret.”
Thursday’s overnight session came after a Wednesday vote shortly before midnight on a stopgap funding measure to avoid a government shutdown. Mr. Graham and fellow Republican Sens. Joni Ernst of Iowa, Todd Young of Indiana and Dan Sullivan of Alaska resurrected an attempt to unanimously confirm individual military nominees until roughly 3:30 a.m., to which Mr. Tuberville objected.
This time, Utah Republican Sen. Mike Lee came to Mr. Tuberville‘s defense.
“He’s chosen a tactic that is legitimate, and he has every right to deploy under the rules of the Senate, rules that go back nearly two and a half centuries in order to protect the individual rights of each senator,” Mr. Lee said.
Mr. Graham accused Mr. Tuberville of “taking the military and throwing it in the ditch,” and reiterated that a lawsuit should instead be brought.
The South Carolinian revealed that Republicans are being advised by former Trump attorney Jay Sekulow, who served on the ex-president’s impeachment team during the first Senate trial. Mr. Graham said he thought “we found a way, talking to Jay, to bring a lawsuit,” but he did not divulge additional details.
Mr. Tuberville has vehemently denied assertions from Pentagon officials and even some Republicans that his holds are affecting national security.
Mr. Graham took issue with that.
“You say [the Pentagon‘s abortion policy is] illegal. I tend to agree with you. Go to court,” Mr. Graham said. “This is affecting the ability of the nation to defend itself. I will not tolerate being told something I know is wrong.”