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Tommy Tuberville enters a new phase on his controversial military holds

Sen. Tommy Tuberville is planning to force a vote on confirming a new leader to the Marine Corps, a rare move by a member of the minority party that moves the Republican’s blanket hold on military promotions into a new phase.

The Alabama senator gathered enough signatures from fellow Republicans Tuesday to force a vote on Gen. Eric Smith’s promotion to lead the Marine Corps, which has been without a Senate confirmed leader since July. Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) had mulled such a move this summer, but Minority Leader Mitch McConnell talked him out of it, arguing the precedent of the minority party forcing such a vote could backfire when Republicans are in the majority.

But Tuberville is unbowed and is set to file his own cloture petition, which would force a vote on Smith’s confirmation vote. Tuberville is preventing mass confirmations, which requires unanimous consent in the Senate, in a protest over the Pentagon’s abortion leave policy. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer has declined to hold individual votes, saying it’s Republicans’ problem to solve internally.

Now, Tuberville is set to force the debate on individual nominees this week. Senate Armed Services Committee ranking member Roger Wicker (R-Miss.) said that the Senate needs “something to break the logjam.”

“There’s some concern about procedurally using that mechanism to get the votes. He’s filed it, he’s got the requisite number of signatures. I assume that will trigger some action,” said Senate Minority Whip John Thune (R-S.D.). “It’s up to the Democrats to start voting and one way or the other. I think this is going to get that started.”

The Heritage Foundation first publicized the move on Tuesday; a Tuberville spokesperson confirmed his intentions to POLITICO.

Joe Gould contributed to this report.

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