Tuberville has so far rejected the off-ramps offered to him — such as votes that would undo the Pentagon policy of reimbursing troops who travel to seek an abortion.
But Tuberville is now facing a fight from some GOP defense hawks, who confronted him on the floor last week and forced him to block votes on 61 nominees. Concern is mounting that Republicans could soon join with Democrats on legislation to bundle most of the promotions he’s blocking, effectively circumventing his hold.
“I want to get this over with,” Tuberville acknowledged, before adding the caveat, “but do it the right way.”
“It’s pretty important to my people back in the state that there’s got to be a way around this that … it’s not going to satisfy everybody, but I do want to move forward with this,” he added.
Several alternatives to the current holdup of uniform officers have been floated. Many Republicans want to see Tuberville shift his obstruction to civilian nominees — such as President Joe Biden’s pick for Pentagon policy chief, Derek Chollet — who make policy, unlike military members. But Tuberville has already placed holds on civilian picks, though with less public attention than military nominees, and would lose leverage by focusing on nominees who already need to jump through procedural hoops to be confirmed.
Tuberville said he planned to circulate a memo at the closed-door GOP meeting outlining several potential paths, which he declined to immediately detail.
“I’m not lifting my holds. There are some ways around this, and we’re going to explain them to you a little bit later,” he told reporters.
Other Republicans, seemingly anticipating backlash from anti-abortion groups that support the blockade, want to see the policy challenged in federal court with the help of those groups.
But Tuberville rejected using a lawsuit to address his concerns, saying it could take years. “Some of us don’t have that long,” he said.
For some Republicans, Tuesday’s special conference meeting could very well be a last straw after nine months of inaction.
No Republicans have publicly endorsed the Democratic-led carveout to get around Tuberville’s hold, offered by Senate Armed Services Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) and Sen. Kyrsten Sinema (I-Ariz.). But senators on the fence could use his intransigence to justify supporting it.
Ursula Perano and Burgess Everett contributed to this report.