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U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville ended his monthslong block on most military promotions on Tuesday without forcing the Pentagon to change a health-related policy affecting abortions that the Alabama Republican was seeking.
His surrender came after 10 months and as he found himself with few allies in a battle against Democrats. Sen. Mark Kelly, D-Ariz., was prominent among them.
At the same time, Sen. Kyrsten Sinema, I-Ariz., was working on a resolution aimed at breaking the logjam.
Kelly, a veteran Navy combat pilot and member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, issued a terse response to Tuberville’s announcement.
“About damn time,” he said.
Tuberville, also a member of the Armed Services Committee, said he would lift his hold for about 440 pending promotions but keep in place a blockade on nearly a dozen cases involving the military’s most decorated leaders.
“Everybody but the 10 or 11 four-stars,” Tuberville told reporters in Washington. “Those will continue.”
Tuberville used Senate rules to place a hold on military promotions because the Pentagon allows travel compensation to military members who had to leave their bases to access health care unavailable to them locally.
That policy includes women who seek abortion services in states where those services are no longer available since the Supreme Court decision last year left the matter to each state.
Kelly led the Democratic pressure campaign for Tuberville to end the holds.
In a July speech, Kelly noted that the tactic impacted key jobs, such as managing the Navy’s nuclear armaments, and Fort Huachuca’s commanding general and commandant, Maj. Gen. Tony Hale, who was nominated to be a lieutenant general.
The issue may have reached a tipping point in October when Gen. Eric Smith, the Marine Corps commandant, suffered a heart attack scarcely a month into the job. At the time, he was essentially doing the work of assistant commandant as well because of the hold in filling that position.
While Kelly pressed Tuberville publicly, Sinema tried to coax him privately to find a way to end the standoff with the Pentagon.
Last summer Sinema offered to help seek "middle ground" in the dispute. She helped negotiate a resolution that could have gone to a vote soon that would have sought Republican agreement to vote on the nominations as a group, bypassing Tuberville’s hold. It would have broken from Senate practice and forced Republicans to take a vote most hoped to avoid.
Facing that pressure, Tuberville relented.
“Senator Sinema told Arizonans in August that she was working on a solution to protect our military readiness and the Senate – and that’s exactly what she’s done,” said Hannah Hurley, a Sinema spokeswoman. “By ignoring hyperbolic partisan rhetoric and working in good faith with Senator Tuberville, Chairman (Jack Reed, D-R.I.,) Senate leaders, and her colleagues on both sides of the aisle for months, Kyrsten found a path forward that ensures we can move forward with military promotions.”
In a closed-door meeting with the Greater Phoenix Chamber of Commerce last summer, Sinema said she disagreed with Tuberville but respects the power each senator has to hold up work in Washington, D.C.
“What we need is folks to step away from their positions and find that middle ground to solve the challenge that we’re facing,” she said at the time.
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This article originally appeared on Arizona Republic: Tuberville hold on military promotions ends amid work by Kelly, Sinema