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  • Writer's pictureMichael McAuliff

Tuberville Under Fire For Blocking Military Promotions

With most Senate Republicans raising concerns about the threats America faces abroad in the context of repealing the decades-old Iraq war authorizations this week, one of them, Sen Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), is coming under fire for risking the nation's security by blocking military promotions.

Tuberville has used his authority as a senator to stand in the way of more than 150 senior military promotions, which must be approved by the Senate.

The former college football coach is blocking the promotions because he is angry about the abortion policies the military is enacting later this month in the wake of the Supreme Court's decision overturning Roe v. Wade.

Under that policy, the military -- which bars abortion in most cases by military doctors and at military facilities -- will pay so a service member can travel to a state where abortion care is legal.

Tuberville wants that policy ended, and has mounted a blockade of military promotions until he gets his way, but military officials and Democrats warned Tuesday that the senator is jeopardizing the nation's military readiness.

"Not approving the recommendation for promotions actually creates a ripple effect with the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be," Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin told the Senate Armed Services Committee -- on which Tuberville sits -- in a hearing.

Armed Services Committee Chairman Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) warned of a hollowed out leadership.

"If this continues, we will have within a few months, no leadership in significant [parts of the military]," Reed said. "In fact, almost the entire Department of Defense will have acting people, will have temporary people, and we need leadership right now."

Tuberville responded that the policy change to fund travel is the same as the military paying for abortions, which he said is illegal. He suggested his concerns was as important as the readiness Austin raised.

"I'm not going to let our military be politicized," Tuberville said. "I want our military to be the strongest and the deadliest it has ever been. But I also want the administration to follow the law. As long as I have a voice in this body, Congress will write the laws. Not the secretary of defense," he said.

Democrats raised the obstruction later at their weekly news conference, arguing that the actual politicization was coming from the Alabama senator, who is disregarding the military's assessment of a policy that it says improves readiness and troop morale.

"Not only does Sen. Tuberville want to control the decisions women in the military make about their own health, he's willing to hurt our troops and our country to do so," Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer told reporters.

Minutes later, Republicans leaders were asked about the apparent conflict between sounding the alarm on military threats to the United States while blocking promotions among the military leadership.

Senate Minority Whip John Thune did not answer directly, but said he and other Republicans think abortion care rules are "atrocious," and that Tuberville has every right to do what he is doing.

""It's his prerogative. Any individual Senator can use their powers and their rights as a senator to get the attention the administration," Thune said. "The administration can move those nominees. All it takes is -- every nominee now -- is 51 votes. And if they if they choose to, they can move them along."

Moving hundreds of promotions one at a time the way the Senate advances judges, however, could take years.

Thune said the other answer is that the White House take Tuberville's objection to heart, and work with him.

"Hopefully they can sit down with Sen. Tuberville and address the issue that he's raised," Thune said. "Because, one, he's very passionate about it. And he's not alone. We have a lot of members in our conference who care deeply about that issue."

Schumer responded Wednesday morning to the idea that the depth of Tuberville's passion for the issue justifies the obstruction.

"I respect that Sen. Tuberville ... has deep feelings about this," Schumer said on the Senate floor. "Well, Sen. Tuberville, I have deep feelings on certain issues. So do the other 99 senators. But we don't hold up military promotions and risk our national security because of those deep feelings. If every one of us did what he is doing ... the military would collapse."


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