WASHINGTON — Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who for months has been blocking hundreds of military promotions in protest of a Pentagon abortion policy, plans to call a floor vote on the nominee for second-in-command of the U.S. Marines Corps after its top leader Gen. Eric M. Smith suffered a health emergency Sunday.
Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, gathered the required petition signatures to bring an individual vote to the floor on Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney, nominee for the Corps’ assistant commandant.
President Joe Biden nominated Mahoney in July.
“The vote could be as soon as Thursday,” said Steven Stafford, spokesperson for Tuberville’s office.
Stafford said Tuberville collected the 16 signatures he needed in roughly 30 minutes during the Senate’s weekly lunch Tuesday. Stafford would not disclose names but said all signees are Republicans.
Tuberville’s list of blocked nominees grew to 378 as of Friday but could balloon to 650 by year’s end, according to the Pentagon.
Sens. Jack Reed, chair of the Senate Committee on Armed Services, and Kyrsten Sinema are mulling a proposal to bypass Tuberville’s holds and allow promotions to reach the floor en bloc rather than individually. Text of the proposal is not yet available, according to a spokesperson for Sinema, an independent who represents Arizona.
Smith remains hospitalized but further details about his condition and what happened Sunday were not released.
“Due to the expressed wishes of his family, we are respecting their privacy at this difficult time. The Marine Corps will provide more information once it becomes available,” a Pentagon spokesperson said Tuesday.
Reed issued a statement on Smith just after 4:30 p.m. Eastern Monday.
“I am wishing General Smith a speedy recovery. He is one of our nation’s finest and toughest leaders, and I hope he will return to full strength soon. My thoughts are with General Smith and his family,” the Rhode Island Democrat said.
Tuberville also sits on the Armed Services Committee.
Smith was confirmed in September after Tuberville pursued a similar effort to force individual votes for top military nominees.
Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York set up the votes to confirm Gen. Charles Q. Brown as the chair of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Gen. Randy George to Army chief of staff, and Smith.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin has warned the delayed promotions are a threat to national security.
Defense abortion policy
In the wake of the U.S. Supreme Court’s 2022 decision to strike down the federal right to abortion, the Pentagon announced that service members could receive leave and travel allowances when seeking abortions in areas of the country where it remains legal.
The court’s decision triggered a patchwork of state-by-state abortion laws.
About 80,000 active-duty female troops are based in states where legislatures enacted full or partial bans, according to a September 2022 analysis by the RAND Corporation, a think tank that has long produced defense research.
Tuberville maintains the department’s policy is illegal. The Pentagon and Biden administration refute that claim.
Ashley Murray covers the nation’s capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom. Her coverage areas include domestic policy and appropriations.