SPEECH: Sen. Sullivan, GOP Colleagues Brings Up Military Nominees Individually for a Vote
Sen. Sullivan's Opening Remarks:
Mr. President, I want to thank my colleagues for coming down here tonight. It is a very important issue that we are getting ready to talk about.
We are in a very dangerous world right now. Our country is being challenged on multiple fronts across the globe. We literally have American troops under attack in the Middle East.
As a member of the Armed Services Committee, as a U.S. Marine Corps colonel, I know--we all know here in the Senate--that America needs to have our best players, our most combat-capable leaders on the field, and, right now, that is not happening. It needs to change.
I just want to begin by saying something very clear. You are going to hear this a lot. I am as pro-life as they come. I strongly disagree with what Secretary Austin and President Biden have done with their politicization of the military on a whole host of fronts, including the abortion policy, which I think is illegal and violates the Hyde amendment.
And I have been working with many colleagues, but especially Senator Tuberville from Alabama, side by side, for months, trying to get this reversed, trying to get compromises. At the same time, we have been telling the majority leader: Do your job. Do your job. Bring up nominees so we can vote on them.
Now, we have had to force them to do it. Tomorrow, we are going to be voting on the CNO of the Navy, a member of the Joint Chiefs; the Chief of Staff of the Air Force; the Assistant Commandant of the Marine Corps--not because the majority leader brought them up, but because we forced them to. He needs to do his job.
But I also firmly believe that one of our most core basic principles--certainly, as Republicans--which I think in many ways distinguishes us from our colleagues on the other side of the aisle, is our serious focus on national security, readiness, a strong military, and taking care of our troops and their families.
We all know there are current holds on our military. I want the American people to know right now, 376 promotions to one-, two-, three-, and four-star generals and admirals are being held. It is estimated that, by the end of this year, 89 percent of all general officer positions in the U.S. military will be affected by the current holds from Senator Tuberville. Either the members have to be forced to retire, positions not filled, in acting capacity, or will be unable to retire--this is pretty much the entire officer corps. This is hugely disruptive to readiness.
A couple of examples: 288 one- and two-star generals are being held. These are the men and women who run the military right now. We are going to talk about other places. The First Marine Expeditionary Force, the Third Marine Expeditionary Force--these are the war fighting organizations of the Marine Corps--the Seventh Fleet, which is our fighting naval force in the Taiwan Strait; the Fifth Fleet, the fighting naval force in the Middle East. It goes on and on. NATO Deputy Chairman, a three-star job, empty; Deputy U.S. CENTCOM Commander, empty. The head of the Navy nuclear program, the head of missile defense--all nonconfirmed.
We have a big challenge right now. Let me be a bit more blunt on the issue of morale. The military has a huge readiness and retention problem. These holds are not helping.
As I mentioned, I am a senior colonel in the Marines. Many of the one-star and two-star who are being held right now are in my peer group. I have known these men and women for 30 years. There is growing bitterness within the ranks of our military, driven by this fact, and I want people to understand this. The men and women in the military who served our country so well for decades--probably the most combat-experienced generation since World War II--have made huge sacrifices, multiple deployments, and now their careers are being punished over a policy dispute they had nothing to do with and no power to resolve.
That is what is happening right now, and the idea that some of these officers are supposedly woke or desk jockeys is ridiculous. These are some of the most combat-experienced generals and admirals we have ever had in our country.
Finally, these holds also pose strategic risks to our force. What does that mean? We are starting to see military officers saying: Admirals and generals, I am getting out. Or they have to get out if they are going to be timed out.
We had a scandal in the U.S. Navy several years ago called the ``Fat Leonard'' scandal. It literally wiped out a generation of Navy officers who had Pacific experience. We do not want to be responsible for a Senate-inflicted hollowing out of our most experienced military officers, especially given how dangerous the world is right now.
So I have mentioned this before. I have worked closely with Senator Tuberville for months, always defending his holds, always looking for compromise. The one we are working on now: Lift the hold on the military officers who have nothing to do with this dispute and can't resolve it anyway, and put a hold on the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, who is in charge of this issue. Let's do that.
That is a good compromise.
But we haven't made progress, and the world is a dangerous place. So tonight we are taking another approach. For months, Senator Tuberville has said, if individual nominees are brought up for a vote one at a time, he will be fine with that. On September 6, he said: I am not holding up nominations for being approved. They can bring them to the floor one at a time.
Well, tonight, that is exactly what we are going to do--individual votes on individual nominees, just as Senator Tuberville has requested. We have dozens. I hope the Senator from Alabama meant what he said on this issue, and he backs our troops, who are true warriors and, yes, heroes, who along with their families have dedicated their lives to this country, risked their lives for this country, and have nothing to do with this current policy dispute--nothing at all.
Last night on TV, Senator Tuberville said he was ``all for the military''--in particular, our military heroes.
You are going to hear a lot about military heroes tonight, and, hopefully, we are going to get a bunch of them confirmed, one by one, as we bring them up.
I yield the floor to my colleague from Iowa.
Sen. Sullivan Brings Forward His First Military Nominee of the Night:
Mr. President, we are going to start moving through some of these nominations. My colleague from Alabama has said publicly, hey, bring them up one at a time. And we are asking for a voice vote, so that is a vote. So we are doing what he said, not sure why he is objecting. Maybe he can explain that in a minute when I bring up another--a real hero by the way.
And, look, what Senator Tuberville said about the policy and Austin and Biden on this abortion policy, I fully agree with him. We should be suing to stop it. I think it is illegal. And he is also right; everybody uses holds. I certainly use holds.
But the key is you put a hold on someone who typically has some kind of control over the issue that you are trying to fix, some kind of responsibility. One of the things I have been talking to the Senator from Alabama on is, all right, let's put a hold on the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy. He is the guy. He is a civilian, and he is in charge of this policy dispute. Let's put a hold on him--that is the right guy--and squeeze him. But why are we putting holds on war heroes? I am going to get to one here in a minute.
Again, I just--I don't understand. And, look, we can go in and out of readiness, but my colleague from Alabama is 100 percent wrong, no kidding. The readiness is being impacted when you have--I will just give a couple of examples here. This is just from one theater: EUCOM, the Deputy Chairman of NATO, pretty important job. It is a three-star billet. It is empty.
The Deputy Commanding General of U.S. Army Europe--really important job--empty.
Like I said, I MEF--that is the big Marine Corps combined force that fights anywhere in the world; 25,000 marines, commanded by a three-star--it is a two-star. Now, for those who did serve in the military, we understand this is a problem. Same with III MEF. OK. This is just from EUCOM, European Command--72 officers are unable to assume their new positions. These 72 officers include 52 who cannot move because they have been nominated for a position that requires Senate confirmation, as well as 20 other officers who are projected to be assigned to a new position now held by one of the previous 52 officers. It is creating a giant blockage in the way in which the military operates.
To say there are no readiness issues--I am the ranking member of the Readiness Subcommittee on the Armed Services Committee. There are readiness issues. And that is the whole point. We have a really dangerous world, a really dangerous world right now, and to say, ``Oh, don't worry; this isn't impacting readiness,'' with all due respect to my colleague, that is just wrong. It is not even a close call. It is wrong, and it matters to this country.
Let me give you another example: the head of the Naval Nuclear Propulsion Program, the nuclear navy--one of the best run organizations on planet Earth, if you know anything about the military or just its organizations. It was started by Admiral Rickover. To not have the leadership in charge of the nuclear navy? That is a problem. To not have the leadership in charge of missile defense for America? That is a problem.
So, look, we can debate readiness, but my colleague on this, in my view, is respectfully quite misinformed.
I am going to bring up my first nominee. Now, this goes to the issue of some comments that have come out during this: Well, these one-star and two-star generals are kind of desk jockeys, right?
These comments have been made.
They are not warriors, right? The real warriors are the captains and the sergeants.
Look, I love the whole military, but the one- and two-star Generals--I know a lot of them. That is my peer group in the Marine Corps. I am a little bit behind them. I am not going to be promoted. I am getting out here probably soon. But I know these guys, and the idea that somehow these are desk jockeys? Do you know who these people were, the one- and two-stars we are holding up right now, 289 of them? These were the Captains and Lieutenants who were going fighting in Afghanistan and Iraq after 9/11.
The current Commandant of the Marine Corps--by the way, every American should be praying for him; big health issues--he has a Purple Heart, distinguished combat.
These were the people who were kicking in doors in Fallujah, shooting terrorists in the face, and we have people saying they are desk jockeys and they are not warriors? That is just ridiculous. It is ridiculous, and it is insulting.
So I am going to talk about a warrior. I am getting ready to call up Col. Robert Weiler. He has been nominated to be a one-star Brigadier General, to be the 1st Marine Division Assistant Commander. That is the big division on the west coast of the U.S. Marine Corps infantry. I used to be part of the 1st Marine Division. I am proud of that. You need a Deputy Commander. They don't have one, OK?
Let's talk about Colonel Weiler--28-year career; commanded the 5th Marine Regiment--I was in that regiment, the most decorated regiment in the Marine Corps; 2d Battalion 4th Marines; 2d Battalion 24th Marines; deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan I think six times.
Think about what his family went through, OK? Think about what his family has sacrificed. And right now, people are being told: You are not going anywhere, Colonel, because we have a dispute on an issue you have nothing to do with that you can't resolve.
Let's hear a little bit more about this Colonel in the Marine Corps. He received a Silver Star for conspicuous gallantry and intrepidity in action against the enemy while serving as Commanding Officer, Weapons Company, 2d Battalion 4th Marines, 5th Marine Regiment, 6 through 10 April 2004, in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom; heavily engaged by enemy forces for an over 4-hour firefight while wounded by enemy fire, OK? Purple Heart. He continued to fearlessly lead marines as they destroyed this tenacious enemy. He is no woke guy. He is no desk jockey. Oh, what else did he do? He got a Purple Heart in that vicious combat.
He received a Navy and Marine Corps Commendation Medal with a combat distinguishing device for heroic action in another deployment--2d Battalion 4th Marines, 1st Marine Division, on 6 September in Ramadi, Iraq. He took decisive action by directing fires of his raid force, quickly gaining fire superiority and suppressing and killing the enemy. Although dazed by a major blast, he continued to lead and direct his team in combat, where they killed and captured all five insurgents on their target raid list. So we are going to block him tonight?
The Senator from Alabama last night on TV said he respects all military, especially the heroes.
Well, you got one coming. You got one coming, Senator.
So we are going to do what you asked, which is do a vote individually on this American hero.
I ask unanimous consent that the Senate proceed to executive session for consideration of the following nomination: Col. Robert S. Weiler to be Brigadier General in the U.S. Marine Corps under Executive Calendar No. 95; that the Senate vote on the nomination without intervening action or debate; that, if confirmed, the motion to reconsider be made and laid upon the table and the President be immediately notified of the Senate's action.
Sen. Sullivan's Closing Remarks:
I am just going to conclude. I am disappointed. We are done here. We don't have any more for tonight, but I think this has been enlightening. I think this has been enlightening because what we have been able to do--hopefully, some people are watching in our great Nation--is to distill to the people of the country: Look at how blessed we are to have these incredible Americans. Look at how blessed we are, how heroic they are.
So my message to our Generals and Admirals who are being held up: Hang in there. Hang in there. Some of us have your back. We have your back. We will be coming here every night to try and get you guys confirmed.
I have been very honored to be here with Senator Ernst on the floor. And I will tell you that I think she and I both have a feeling that I think a lot of people have--but people who served, mostly--just the love for our military, military families.
I am coming up, just at 30 years in the Marine Corps. The INDOPACOM theater has been the bookends of my career. My first deployment was the INDOPACOM, a Marine amphibious ready group, in the Taiwan Strait.
When the Chinese were threatening to invade Taiwan, we sent a Marine amphibious ready group. I was on that as a young infantry officer, in two carrier strike groups. And we went in the Taiwan Strait and looked at the Chinese and said: Not today, guys. Not today. Not today. The U.S. Marine Corps is here. The U.S. Navy is here. Don't even think about it.
That was almost 27 years ago, and I am out at the Marine Force's Pacific Command. In between, I have deployed as a staff officer in the Middle East, in Afghanistan.
But I think, like Senator Ernst, the biggest honor of my life has been serving and leading marines. I have a lot of good friends in the Senate. I have met a lot of good people in the U.S. Senate. The best people I have ever met in my life by far--not even close--are U.S. marines. They are the best.
And I think what is happening right now--you know, the Marine Corps' motto is Semper Fi, always faithful. And this body is not keeping faith with our military right now. It is not, and the military knows it, and they are frustrated.
So many of these officers had 30 years or more of experience, thousands of years of experience we are putting on hold. The distinct comparative advantages we have say, for example, in submarine forces in the Indo-Pacific theater that the Chinese fear--they fear it--we are putting that on hold.
So I am hopeful that my colleague who left, Senator Tuberville, can work with us. I have been working with him for months. This is just kind of a frustration moment, right? Enough. But I am hopeful we can still work together. I am hopeful we can find a way forward. The idea that I have been pitching to him: Hey, let's lift the hold on the men and women who have nothing to do with this and put a hold on the Under Secretary of Defense for Policy, who is in charge of the abortion issue, and he is a civilian. That is the way to use the hold, not to take out a Marine Corps Brigadier General who is a war hero.
So I am hopeful that we are going to make progress on that. We are facing a really dangerous period right now, as you know, as Senator Ernst knows, and we are impacting readiness. We are definitely impacting morale, and that is readiness.
So, again, to my colleague saying, ``Don't worry; there is no problem, no readiness problems,'' no offense, but that is just ridiculous, and he knows it. We all know it.
So we are going to keep working this. I am honored to be on the floor with Senator Ernst. I appreciate, Mr. President, your sticking around.
We are not done. If you are a flag officer--one-star, two-star, three-star, or four-star General--we have got your back. We are going to work this. We are going to work it. You deserve it, and our Nation has to have it.
Mr. President, I yield the floor.
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