After insisting for months that Republican Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville was solely responsible for the delay in approving senior military promotions, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer finally folded Wednesday and began to set up votes on three military officers.

The news will likely be seen as a win for Tuberville since it demonstrates that the Democratic leader could have made this move months ago. He appears to have been propelled into action by a maneuver from the Alabama senator—Tuberville had planned to bring a motion to the floor Wednesday to force a vote on Gen. Eric Smith’s promotion to U.S. Marine Corps commandant.

That vote was a new tactic in Tuberville’s monthslong dispute with the Defense Department over its taxpayer-funded abortion policy, since it would have given Schumer the opportunity to vote on Smith’s promotion.

“I have just filed cloture on the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the commandant of the Marine Corp, and the army chief of staff,” Schumer said Wednesday. “These men should have already been confirmed. They should already be serving in their new positions. The Senate should not have to go through procedural hoops just to please one brazen and misguided senator. But this is where we are.”

“One of us was bluffing,” Tuberville tweeted Wednesday afternoon. “It wasn’t me. Democrats are taking the same action they could’ve taken months ago. As long as the Pentagon keeps the unlawful elective abortion policy in place, my holds will remain.”

Tuberville began blocking the promotions in March, arguing the Pentagon’s policy was unlawfully implemented without congressional approval. He has vowed to not release his “hold” on the promotions until the policy is revoked.

“In the end, the Senate will overwhelmingly vote to overcome Sen. Tuberville’s blockade of these three nominees by voting for cloture,” Schumer said Wednesday. “Then, the Senate will overwhelmingly vote to confirm them. And these three honorable men will finally be able to assume their positions. And the abortion policy that Sen. Tuberville abhors will remain in place. Sen. Tuberville will have accomplished nothing.”

Unless the Senate is willing to vote individually on all the military nominees, the senate majority leader’s remarks are likely not true—Tuberville will still be able to hold up nominees over the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

“Sen. Tuberville’s rarely used procedural maneuver would have threatened Sen. Schumer’s power by forcing a vote on the nomination,” Clint Brown, vice president of government relations at The Heritage Foundation, explained to The Daily Signal. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of the Heritage Foundation). “Rather than give up power, Schumer decided to schedule votes himself.”

“Through this trick play, Sen. ‘Coach’ Tuberville forced Schumer to show his hand that the Senate could have been voting on these noms all along,” Brown added. “This proves that it is Democrats who are unwilling to do the work to move these nominations. Still, if Democrats are unwilling to do the work of voting on each individual nominee, they could pressure DOD to rescind the immoral and legally suspect abortion policy.”

Tuberville said Wednesday afternoon that he reserves “the right to seek another cloture position on the nominees in the future,” criticizing Schumer for allowing the backlog of promotions to build up over the past six months.

“It’s his fault,” Tuberville said. “We could have been confirming one or two a week for the last 200 days … but we didn’t. We took another angle of just sitting back and watching. Chuck Schumer refused again, again, and again. We don’t have a lack of leadership in our military. We have a lack of leadership in the United States Senate.”

“My hold is still in place,” the Alabama Republican added. “The hold will remain in place as long as the Pentagon’s illegal abortion policy remains in place. If the Pentagon lifts the policy, then I will lift my hold. It’s as easy as that.”

Republican Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst weighed in on Schumer’s actions Wednesday, asking during a presser, “Senator Schumer has had this opportunity for months now. He is the one who has been holding hostage the military men and women who serve this country. So why the heck didn’t he do it sooner?”

“As I’ve said previously,” chimed in Republican Alabama Sen. Katie Boyd Britt, “Senator Schumer has the power to schedule votes on each of these nominees. Today’s move only confirms this has been true all along.”

Schumer said in May that “Sen. Tuberville’s indefinite hold on the confirmation of our general and flag officers is reckless, unprecedented, harmful to our military’s readiness and sends the wrong message to our partners and allies.”

Tuberville has objected to “unanimous consent,” the Senate’s process of rubber-stamping an entire group of nominees without a recorded vote, but said on a number of occasions that Democrats can proceed if they individually vote on each nominee.

President Joe Biden nominated Smith to be the Marine Corp’s top officer in May, The Daily Signal previously reported, and the Senate Armed Services Committee approved Smith’s promotion in June. He is serving as the acting commandant as he waits for the Senate confirmation.

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. 

Rob Bluey contributed to this report.

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