Will Nine Republicans Step Up To End Tuberville's Tantrum?

[ Posted Thursday, November 2nd, 2023 – 16:16 UTC ]

Senator Tommy Tuberville has never worn a uniform (unless you count a football jersey). And yet he feels he knows the United States military better than those who are serving or have served. In particular, he feels that his blanket hold on military promotions is an acceptable political-theater tactic, no matter the impact on people's lives or on the readiness of our military. Last night, members of his own party publicly took him to task for his tantrum, but they didn't succeed in changing his mind. The next step would be for the Senate to vote to essentially ignore Tuberville's parliamentary tactic and get on with what used to be a routine and non-controversial duty of the Senate: approving high-level military promotions. But to achieve this would require 60 votes, meaning at least nine Republicans would have to vote to shut down Tuberville's obstructionism.

Tuberville is upset that the military instituted a policy to allow women who serve to have abortions without being forced to go "absent without leave" to do so. The policy was instituted in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe v. Wade, since all of a sudden abortion availability now depends heavily on what state you happen to be living in. Military members don't have any say in where they are ordered to serve, meaning they don't get any sort of choice of serving on a base in a blue state with liberal abortion laws or a red state with an almost-complete ban on the procedure. They go where they are ordered, and serve where they are told to.

The new policy does not mean the military pays for abortions, it just makes it possible for abortions to happen without running afoul of military regulations. If a servicemember finds out she is pregnant and decides to have an abortion, under the new policy she is allowed to take a sanctioned leave of absence and the military pays for her transportation to and from a state where she can get one. If the policy wasn't in place, a servicemember would have to either schedule her abortion during a leave period she had already been granted (which wouldn't always be possible, of course), and she'd have to figure out how to pay for any travel required. The alternative would be for her to go AWOL and face military punishment when she returned to duty. The new policy avoids that fate.

Senator Tommy Tuberville does not approve of this policy. Which means he is in favor of a servicemember facing an unplanned pregnancy being forced to go through with it to keep her job, or forced to break military regulations to deal with it. But rather than using democratic means to change it (which would mean passing a bill through both houses of Congress and getting the president to sign it), Tuberville decided to gum up the works of the Senate to punish individual members of the military who had absolutely nothing to do with the policy being instituted. Military promotions above a certain rank must be approved by the Senate, under current law. Other than extraordinary cases, this is seen as a merely bureaucratic duty that seldom raises any objection. Before Tuberville's stunt, such promotions were usually bundled together and passed unanimously "without objection." Being non-controversial, it was seen as no more than routine paperwork for the Senate.

But Tuberville has put a "hold" on all such promotions. Rather than the Senate passing them "by unanimous consent," he has indicated that he will object to each and every one of them. Which he proved last night.

At one point, Tuberville said he was just objecting to passing all the promotions in a bundle -- that if the Senate were to vote on individual promotions, he would agree to let them move forward. But last night, his fellow Republicans brought up 61 such individual promotions and Tuberville objected to each and every one. This brought him some scathing denunciations from members of his own party:

On Wednesday night, a remarkable scene unfolded on the Senate floor as several Republicans, including Sens. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Joni Ernst (Iowa), Todd C. Young (Ind.) and Lindsey O. Graham (S.C.) confronted Tuberville, imploring him to lift his hold for the sake of national security and proposing votes on individual officers whose promotions have been delayed. Tuberville rebuffed them one by one, blocking each proposed nominee as his colleagues' frustration continued to rise.

The confrontation stretched nearly five hours, with Ernst, a retired Army officer, and Sullivan, a colonel in the Marine Corps Reserve, rotating to bring forward the bulk of 61 officers presented by name. They called out Tuberville for saying previously that he would relent on nominations that were brought forward for votes individually.

Colonel/Senator Sullivan directly addressed Tuberville's assertion that his holds weren't having any effect on the readiness of the military:

"Again my colleague, 'Oh, no readiness problem.' That's such baloney. Baloney. And everybody knows it. You spend one day in the military, you know it. Really makes me frustrated. Really frustrated."

. . .

"Again, the Chinese are like -- they're watching it, I guarantee it, hello, guys -- and they're like, 'Gosh, I can't believe how dumb these guys are,'" Sullivan said.

He added at another point: "The Chinese are like, 'Man we've been wanting to take out the U.S. Navy for decades, and the U.S. Senate is doing it right now.'"

Sullivan concluded late in the night: "We are going to look back at this episode and just be stunned at what a national-security suicide mission this became."

Senator Ernst was even more dismissive of Tuberville's lack of military experience:

"We've heard brief résumés of warriors that we really can't go into on the floor of the United States Senate," she said. "Again, those of us that have served understand why we can't do that."

She added at another point: "I'll have to explain it to my colleagues that maybe haven't served why [these presentations] are brief."

At another point, she referred to "those of us that have served and been part of a team and have been deployed," emphasizing "served" and "team."

Senator Graham, who has also served, reiterated the point:

"No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great damage to our military," said Senator Lindsey Graham, Republican of South Carolina, in one such floor speech on Wednesday night.

Once again, these are Tuberville's fellow Republicans saying such things. Their frustration was obvious, but so far none of them have publicly supported a measure proposed by Democratic Senator Jack Reed and Independent Senator Kyrsten Sinema, which would allow promotions to be voted on in a group. The measure will be subject to a filibuster, meaning 60 votes will be required to move it onto the floor. If all 51 Democrats (and Democratic-leaning independents) vote for the measure, it would still need nine Republican votes to prevail.

Last night, at least four Republicans seemed to indicate they might be in favor of such a move. They aren't the only ones, either, as other GOP senators have also been quoted expressing their frustration with Tuberville's tactic.

This isn't crossing the aisle to join with Democrats to support some lefty agenda item -- this is supporting the troops in the fullest meaning of the term. Which -- for decades -- the Republican Party has prided itself on doing. No ideological leap of faith would be required for Republicans to support high-ranking military officers getting their duly-earned promotions, to put it another way.

After all, if a Democrat were doing what Tuberville has been doing for months, Republicans would be merciless in denouncing the move. Just imagine what they'd be saying if, say, Bernie Sanders was the one gumming up the works.

This is an opportunity for Republicans to do what is right, in the face of petulant intransigence from one of their own. The hundreds of servicemembers who are waiting for their promotions to be approved are blameless in the implementation of the new abortion travel policy. They are paying a price that is being levied upon them for purely political reasons. We may see a vote as soon as next week in an attempt to break this logjam. The question is whether nine Republicans will stand up and support the troops or not. Sadly, however, it is an open question at this point whether enough of them will.

-- Chris Weigant


Follow Chris on Twitter: @ChrisWeigant


3 Comments on “Will Nine Republicans Step Up To End Tuberville's Tantrum?”

  1. [1] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    Focusing on military readiness and national security should not be the only tack taken against Tuberville and it sure as hell ain't the most important one, in any case.

    Did any senator stand up and tell Tuberville that his stance on abortion is mysogynistic and that he is a power-hungry control freak who thinks he has a right to tell a woman what she can and cannot do with and within her own birth canal?

    Tuberville's wife or lover or significant other should withhold all sexual fulfillment from him until he understands what the phrase reproductive rights means. Let him pleasure himself.

  2. [2] 
    andygaus wrote:

    He's so self-centered, that won't be much of a punishment

  3. [3] 
    Elizabeth Miller wrote:

    True enough.

Comments for this article are closed.