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Sen. Tobby Tuberville

Tuberville waits as Dems weigh next move

At this point, Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is just waiting for his colleagues to roll him.

The Alabama Republican, whose nine-month blockade of military promotions has sparked backlash from all corners of the Senate, insists he’s seriously considering several off-ramps that could end the standoff.

But Tuberville isn’t in a hurry, even as fellow Republicans escalated their attacks on the Senate floor overnight and Democratic leaders say they won’t wait much longer before forcing a vote on a resolution that would effectively crush the blockade.

“I wish my Republican colleagues could importune Sen. Tuberville to drop his reckless holds. But it has not happened,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Wednesday. “There is still some ray of hope… that maybe at the last minute my Republican colleagues… can persuade [him] to back off.”

To be sure, Tuberville is weighing a number of GOP-proposed ideas that would allow him to challenge the Pentagon’s abortion policy while lifting his unprecedented holds.

One option, as we scooped Tuesday, is to have conservative attorney Jay Sekulow and Speaker Mike Johnson file a lawsuit seeking to invalidate the policy.

The lawsuit idea, which Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.) is organizing with Sekulow, would require the speaker’s buy-in because it increases the chances of success. Graham plans to speak with Johnson about it.

“There’s a real strong possibility we could win this thing in court,” Graham said. “Holding up military nominees who are innocent of all of this is not the right answer.”

Graham said Sekulow told him that the House speaker would have strong legal standing to challenge the abortion policy on the grounds that Congress never appropriated the use of funds for this purpose.

Johnson’s staff is discussing the idea but also may be wary of the politics of aligning with Tuberville on an issue — abortion — that has been blamed for Republicans’ recent election losses. Graham says he’ll pursue it regardless of Tuberville’s decision.

Tuberville called the lawsuit a “good option” but added: “It’s going to take a while.”

Latest on the Rules resolution: At the same time, Tuberville appears to have resigned himself to the idea that enough Senate Republicans will support the Democratic-led resolution, which would allow promotions to be approved en bloc.

Tuberville told us he doesn’t view the timing of a floor vote on the resolution as his deadline to make a decision, even though Republicans have privately indicated they’re using this to force his hand.

“I couldn’t care less about that,” Tuberville said. “If they pass it, it passes. If it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”

But letting it get to that point, one GOP senator said, would allow Tuberville to portray himself as a “victim” who was steamrolled by his colleagues, rather than a rogue lawmaker who gave up in the face of pressure and got nothing in return. Tuberville has expressed a desire in recent days to put this episode behind him — but that doesn’t mean he’ll just fold.

The resolution, approved Tuesday by the Rules Committee along party lines, doesn’t yet have GOP supporters. It needs at least nine Republican backers to pass. But GOP senators are losing patience.

Even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who opposed the resolution in committee, left the door open to backing it eventually. Some Republicans are already laying the groundwork for backing what they view as an extreme step — temporarily tweaking the Senate’s rules — after exhausting all other options.

Schumer isn’t telegraphing the exact date for a vote, but Democrats want to resolve this before the end of the year. Senate Armed Services Committee Chair Jack Reed (D-R.I.) said bluntly: “This has gone on far too long.”

— Andrew Desiderio

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