Sen. Jack Reed showed up for a floor speech Wednesday with a poster depicting eight framed photos of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Three of the frames were empty, a consequence of the ongoing dispute between Sen. Tommy Tuberville and the Defense Department over its decision to implement a taxpayer-funded abortion policy. 

“If the senator does not come to his senses before Gen. [Mark] Milley retires, fully half of the Joint Chiefs of Staff—our nation’s most vital military leaders—will be empty,” Reed, D-R.I., declared

President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris greet Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Gen. Mark Milley, the outgoing chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Biden on May 25 announced his nomination of Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown as the next chairman. (Photo: Adam Schultz/White House)

Reed proceeded to talk for more than 15 minutes, questioning the motives of Tuberville, R-Ala., and warning of a dire situation if these high-ranking miliary officers weren’t approved for promotion by the Senate. 

Yet during his speech, Reed never once mentioned that it was the decision of Democratic leaders—not Tuberville—to prevent the 300 officers from receiving a Senate vote on their promotions.  

Tuberville has said on numerous occasions, including this week, that Democrats could proceed with individual votes for each nominee. Instead, he’s objecting to “unanimous consent,” the Senate process of rubber-stamping an entire bloc of nominees without a recorded vote. 

Take the case of Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown, who President Joe Biden has nominated to replace Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Reed cited Brown’s pending promotion Wednesday while pointing to the poster behind him. 

President Joe Biden has nominated Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown—seen here with the president in the Oval Office on May 25—to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. (Photo: Adam Schultz/White House)

“I’m concerned the senator does not appreciate the gravity of this situation,” Reed said of Tuberville. “These positions cannot simply be filled by other officers. They can only be temporarily covered by their vice chiefs, who must also continue to cover their own jobs. … These are extraordinary challenging times, and the jobs of our vice chiefs are just as important and challenging as the chief of staff or the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.” 

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He accused Tuberville of a plot to “extort the Pentagon” while doing so for “his own political gain.” 

As chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, Reed is responsible for shepherding nominees such as Brown through his committee, which approved his promotion July 20. 

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., could have scheduled a vote for Brown before the Senate left for its monthlong August recess or when senators returned this week. But instead of doing so, Democrats reserved time for confirmation votes on Federal Reserve and National Labor Relations Board nominees. 

“Chuck Schumer can bring them to the floor one at a time as quick and as fast as he wants to, but he won’t do it because that’s an admittance of being wrong,” Tuberville said in an interview with Newsmax’s Greg Kelly. 

The Washington Examiner’s Conn Carroll, a former Senate staffer, crunched the numbers and discovered Democrats could have approved 108 military promotions if they worked an eight-hour day, five days a week instead of leaving town for a month. 

“I’m sorry to the officers who have been inconvenienced by Tuberville’s holds, but if these nominations were really an issue of national security, maybe Senate Democrats could have skipped even just one day of their August vacation to confirm even just one of them,” Carroll wrote. 

Don’t expect Democrats to change course. In fact, Reed acknowledged to Punchbowl News that Brown and other “vital military leaders” would continue to wait. 

“Democrats are hesitant to put Brown’s nomination on the floor because it would set a precedent for all of the other promotions the Alabama Republican is blocking,” Punchbowl reported. 

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“What do you do with the rest of them?” Reed told Punchbowl, revealing that Democrats are keen to continue playing political games in hopes that Tuberville will fold under pressure. 

Don’t count on it. 

“I know I’m doing the right thing,” Tuberville said in an interview on “The Daily Signal Podcast.” “I’m not going to change my mind unless they change this [abortion] policy back the way it was.” 

Tuberville began blocking the promotions of flag officers and military generals in March over objections to the Defense Department’s taxpayer-funded abortion policy. He asserts the Pentagon’s policy was unlawfully implemented without congressional approval and that he won’t release his “hold” on the promotions until the policy is revoked. 

The Pentagon’s policy provides three weeks of taxpayer-funded paid leave and reimbursement of travel expenses for military personnel and dependents who are seeking abortions. An estimate from the Rand Corp. predicts the number of abortions in the military eligible for taxpayer-covered expenses would skyrocket from 20 to more than 4,000 each year. 

In his Newsmax interview, Tuberville said he would continue to withstand pressure from his Senate colleagues until the Pentagon reversed the abortion policy. 

“They don’t know what pressure is. Try coaching in the SEC,” Tuberville said of college football’s Southeastern Conference, where he once was a coach for Auburn University. “There’s no way they’re going to talk me out of this. We’re going to have holds for a long, long time, and they can just get used to it.” 

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