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The ridiculous effort to blame Schumer for Tuberville’s blockade

Republicans want the Senate Democratic leader to share in the blame for Tommy Tuberville's blockade. New research shows how foolish this argument is.


By any fair measure, the person responsible for Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s unprecedented blockade is Sen. Tommy Tuberville. No one told the Alabama Republican he had to launch this dangerous initiative six months ago, and the right-wing senator can end the fiasco at any time.

It’s why, as regular readers know, the GOP lawmaker has been condemned by military leaders. And every living former Defense secretary. And retired military leaders. And veterans. And congressional Democrats. And the White House. And military spouses.

But it was against this backdrop that some Senate Republicans came up with a new idea last week. As NBC News reported, the

As Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., keeps hundreds of military promotions in limbo for a sixth straight month, his Republican colleagues are trying to deflect criticism by pointing the finger at a familiar GOP foe: Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer. “I think the majority leader should take the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff nomination to the floor as we do our top Cabinet officials,” Sen. Roger Wicker of Mississippi, the top Republican on the Armed Services Committee, said in an interview.

Republican Sen. John Cornyn of Texas added that “this is entirely within Sen. Schumer’s control.”

There have been some periodic references to this argument in recent months. In July, for example, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell press secretary said online, “Did Democrats forget that they’re in the majority and control the floor?”

Even Tuberville himself suggested this past weekend that he’s not entirely to blame for undermining his own country’s military because the Democratic majority technically have the authority to confirm the nominees on which he’s imposed Senate holds.

At first blush, some might be tempted to think Republicans have a point. Under Senate rules, one member can’t unilaterally impose permanent blockades on nominees, effectively vetoing the will of the other 99 senators forever. In theory, if Schumer and Democratic leaders wanted to bring up each of the pending armed forces nominees, one at a time, and hold individual confirmation votes, that could happen.

But in practice, that’s simply not how the Senate is set up to function. In this instance, we’re talking about uncontroversial military nominees who would ordinarily be approved in a group by unanimous consent. It would take minutes. As a recent Washington Post editorial explained, “Holds cannot ultimately stop confirmations, but breaking through them requires significant and valuable Senate floor time.”

How much significant and valuable Senate floor time? As it turns out, Senate Armed Services Chairman Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat, asked the Congressional Research Service to find out. As CNN reported, Congress’ in-house think tank crunched the numbers and came up with the answer.

It would take the Senate approximately 700 hours of floor time to individually process and vote on hundreds of military officers whose promotions are being blocked by Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, the Congressional Research Service concluded in a memo released on Tuesday. The number of pending nominations has only increased since the memo was written in late August, from 273 to over 300 today.

In other words, we’re talking about a process that would take, as of now, well over 700 hours.

The Congressional Research Service’s findings added that if the Senate worked eight-hour days, and focused on nothing else, it would take roughly three months to get through the full list of nominees being blocked by the Alabama Republican.

In case this isn’t painfully obvious, there’s no way in the world the Senate is going to give up three months just to satisfy the demands of one GOP member in the midst of a tantrum over an issue he doesn’t fully understand — which is precisely why blaming Schumer for Tuberville’s blockade is foolish.

But, GOP senators say, maybe Schumer could devote floor time to some of the military nominees Tuberville is blocking, which would take a few days each. The problem with this, as the Senate majority leader has argued in recent weeks, is members would be left with a simple question: Where would the chamber start and stop? How would the Senate tell a handful of military nominees that their confirmations are important, while telling hundreds more decorated servicemen and women than they’re unworthy of floor time?

The solution is not to tell Democratic leaders to work on circumventing Tuberville’s blockade; the solution is for Tuberville to end his blockade.