December 12, 2023

Tommy Tuberville

The Senate in a single stroke [last] Tuesday approved about 425 military promotions after Sen. Tommy Tuberville of Alabama ended a monthslong blockade of nominations over his opposition to a Pentagon abortion policy. Tuberville had been under pressure from members of both sides of the political aisle to end his holds as senators complained about the toll it was taking on service members and their families, and on military readiness…

“Tuberville was blocking the nominations in opposition to Pentagon rules that allow travel reimbursement when a service member has to go out of state to get an abortion or other reproductive care. The Biden administration instituted the new rules after the Supreme Court overturned the nationwide right to an abortion, and some states have limited or banned the procedure.” AP News

The Hyde Amendment bars federal funding for most abortions. Congressional Research Service

Here’s our previous coverage of Tuberville. The Flip Side

See past issues

From the Left

The left is relieved that the hold is over, arguing that Tuberville was being unreasonable and harming military readiness.

“The Pentagon has warned repeatedly of the military consequences of the lawmaker’s blockade, with the secretary of the Navy accusing Tuberville of ‘aiding and abetting’ Communist regimes by holding up promotions…

“Tuberville’s crusade has led to multiple high-level positions remaining unfilled, leaving different military branches scrambling whenever something goes wrong. In early November, General Eric Smith, the commandant of the Marine Corps, was hospitalized after suffering a heart attack, further thinning the ranks. His workload had doubled thanks to Tuberville. Now, finally, it looks like Tuberville’s little stunt is coming to an end.”

Tori Otten, New Republic

“[Tuberville told] reporters, ‘It’s been a long fight. We fought hard. We did the right thing for the unborn and for our military, fighting back against executive overreach.’ This is sheer nonsense. In a rare political move, all three service secretaries publicly condemned Tuberville’s tactic as a hindrance to military readiness. More than 1,000 family members of officers signed a petition urging him to ‘stop playing politics’ with their lives…

“And as for executive overreach, the Senate Armed Services Committee rejected a motion to overturn the Pentagon’s rule. Majority Leader Chuck Schumer offered to hold a vote on the Senate floor, even though the measure lost in committee; Tuberville declined the offer. The Pentagon’s lawyers deemed the rule legal. Not even anti-abortion groups challenged the rule in court. In short, Tuberville—a former football coach who was elected to the Senate on a fluke and has almost no knowledge of government… was simply grandstanding.”

Fred Kaplan, Slate

“At least one other GOP senator is now saying he’s holding up the promotions of certain military officers. According to a spokesperson for the office of Sen. Eric Schmitt, R-Mo., ‘Senator Schmitt has placed a hold on a handful of promotions relating to concerns that he has regarding those nominees’ stances or actions relating to divisive Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion (DEI) programs in the military.’ Tuberville has set a dangerous precedent that will most certainly corrupt our military’s leadership…

“Imagine a senator making it known that he wants the Army to buy a certain weapons system that’s manufactured in his state and saying to an officer, ‘You want to be a 4-star someday, go push the Army to make that acquisition.’ Even if just one or two generals are held up consistently, it will open the real possibility of severe corruption. Officers will be constantly worried that they have to please each of the 100 senators, instead of doing what’s best for their troops and the mission.”

Amy McGrath, MSNBC

From the Right

The right is disappointed that Tuberville failed, arguing that the DoD policy violates the ban on federal funding for abortions.

The right is disappointed that Tuberville failed, arguing that the DoD policy violates the ban on federal funding for abortions.

“Military abortion is probably not the top issue in an age of broken families, rampant drug addiction, a collapsed southern border, mass deindustrialization and communal alienation, but for a good number of Republican voters, it was a fight worth having. Not only that, it was a fight the administration picked. Tuberville wasn’t asking for the Department of Defense to institute some new, politicized policy — he was simply asking it not to institute a new, politicized policy

“[He] fought heroically for 11 months. Republicans had a chance to back their colleague last week. The House of Representatives had passed a version of the National Defense Authorization Act amended to stop the Pentagon’s illegal use of taxpayer dollars, and the Senate merely had to adopt it. Tuberville reportedly had the votes to do so, but was denied the chance by congressional leaders from both chambers and both parties.”

Christopher Bedford, Fox News

“Tuberville showed the clarity of someone unfamiliar with the way things are done in Washington. He saw something blatantly unlawful, clearly unconstitutional and decided to make a big deal about it instead of just giving a pointless floor speech. He decided to penalize the very entity engaged in this unlawful behavior: the Pentagon, which apparently operates under the notion that it is immune to the basic requirements of law…

“Senators are invested with enormous power within their body, but very few choose to use it as it can be used. They still swear by, at least on the Republican side, the old norms-based protocols that no one on the Democratic side respects. (As recently as 2020, Illinois senator Tammy Duckworth announced a hold on more than 1,100 Pentagon promotions to insist that Alexander Vindman get promoted.)”

Ben Domenech, Spectator World

“The Pentagon was the aggressor and wrong on the merits of public financing for abortion. In saner times the Biden Administration would have dropped its travel policy underwriting trips for an abortion. But the Biden crowd is bloody-minded enough to subjugate military promotions to their culture-war priorities. Yet that was also predictable. The Biden Administration will now declare victory on abortion because Mr. Tuberville blinked…

“Sen. Tuberville was egged on by right-wing groups, which valorized him as a fighter for the sincerely held anti-abortion beliefs of much of the country. But Sen. Tuberville took a hill he couldn’t hold, and the political damage compounded as more military officers became ensnared in the fight, unable to move their families or start new billets. Don’t be surprised if many Republican voters end up more cynical, having been promised a pro-life victory that was never attainable.”

Editorial Board, Wall Street Journal

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