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Sen. Tommy Tuberville

Tuberville faces impossible task as Dems inch closer to ending blockade

Senate Democrats today will take a major step toward circumventing Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) months-long blockade of military promotions.

The Senate Rules Committee will take up, and likely approve, a resolution that would temporarily allow the body to vote on most promotions en bloc, dramatically reducing the time needed to approve them.

But the real test will be on the Senate floor, where Democrats need at least nine Republicans to join them if they have any hope of ending the nomination crisis, which has dragged on since February.

Tuberville is still considering potential off-ramps. But senators from both parties are getting impatient as they look to topple the blockade by highlighting his intransigence and arguing they’ve exhausted all other options.

“No matter how hard [Republicans] try, he’s not budging,” Senate Rules Committee Chair Amy Klobuchar (D-Minn.) told us. “It’s a temporary solution. I would change a bunch of Senate rules if I could wave a magic wand.”

GOP leaders want to put this nine-month episode — and the accompanying internal strife — behind them. But they also don’t want to be seen as caving to Democrats. And the Republicans leading the charge against Tuberville are wary of becoming a small minority of the GOP that just barely puts this over the 60-vote threshold.

“We’re demanding that a broader group of Republicans be pulled together if we’re going to take any course of action like this,” said one GOP senator involved in the discussions.

Tuberville said Monday he’s not feeling pressure to make a decision before the Rules vote or subsequent floor action. He has a seemingly impossible task here — wiggling his way out of this mess while claiming a win.

“If they can get nine Republicans, God help us,” Tuberville said.

The Rules Committee counts Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Minority Leader Mitch McConnell as members. Both are expected to speak during the 3 p.m. meeting. Schumer has already said he’ll put this on the floor.

All eyes will be on McConnell, who has kept quiet on the resolution itself.

To be sure, McConnell has said he disagrees with Tuberville’s tactics. And McConnell recently revealed he tried convincing Tuberville to turn his ire away from service members who have nothing to do with the abortion policy he’s protesting.

But McConnell has also spoken over the years about the need to preserve senators’ individual prerogatives — such as the ability to place holds on nominations — and has warned against taking actions that would set new precedents.

“It’d be a huge mistake to change the character of the U.S. Senate just because you have a personal grudge against Tommy Tuberville,” Sen. J.D. Vance (R-Ohio), a Tuberville ally, told us.

Democrats — and some Republicans — dispute the idea that the resolution would radically change the Senate.

Here’s Klobuchar:

Important note: None of the Republicans who’ve been the most outspoken against Tuberville’s blockade sit on the Rules panel.

Sen. Todd Young (R-Ind.) fits into that category. Young says he’s trying to find other ways to end the standoff. But the Indiana Republican also has given tacit indications that he’s open to voting for the resolution. Young suggested Monday its passage might not amount to setting a new precedent, as some argue.

“It’s obviously not an ideal situation,” Young told us. “My understanding is there would not be a precedent established with what the Rules Committee is contemplating. Nonetheless, that may be disputed, and there may be cleaner ways to resolve this.”

— Andrew Desiderio

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