Democrats are blasting Sen. Tommy Tuberville as the Alabama Republican is single-handedly blocking hundreds of military promotions over a Pentagon abortion policy.
For months, Tuberville has blocked the confirmations of over 250 general and flag officers for the Pentagon that have come before the Senate. The unprecedented hold has left the Marine Corps without a confirmed leader for the first time in 164 years.
“We are very soon not going to have a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff or a chief of Naval Operations,” national security adviser Jake Sullivan told ABC’s “This Week” on Sunday. “This is making America less safe. And why? Because of the attempt to score domestic political points. It’s just got to stop.”
Tuberville said his blockade is in response to a Pentagon policy that provides paid leave and travel reimbursement for service members who need to cross state lines to receive reproductive health care, including abortions. The Defense Department enacted the policy after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade.
Tuberville’s blockade is “more than a political stunt,” Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-Hawaii) said on MSNBC’s “The Sunday Show.” The senator, who serves on the Armed Services and Veterans’ Affairs committees, said the Republican’s move is “jeopardizing national security.”
Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.), a veteran, wrote on Friday for MSNBC.com that the Senate “has been failing our troops and military families” thanks to “one man who has never served in uniform a day in his life.”
“This ploy is shameful and disgraceful; misogynistic and sadistic; self-interested yet self-defeating,” she continued. “In other words, it’s a perfect snapshot of today’s GOP.”
Tuberville said he would allow the promotions to advance if the Pentagon drops the policy, or if Democrats hold a vote on legislation to end the policy. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) said he does not support blocking military promotions as leverage. But Tuberville, who wrongly claims the Pentagon funds abortions, said he has not felt any pressure from GOP leadership to change his behavior.
“I served in the Army, so I know firsthand that Republicans were just fine with me using my body as I saw fit — when I chose to use it to fight wars on our country’s behalf,” said Duckworth, who lost both legs in 2004 while serving overseas. “They were even OK with me leaving parts of it strewn across a battlefield in Iraq in defense of this great nation.” The senator also stressed that rescinding the Pentagon policy would disproportionately impact younger, lower-ranked service members and their families.
“With this stance, Sen. Tuberville is saying loud and clear that he either doesn’t understand or doesn’t care about the very real effects that service members could face if they can’t access reproductive care; that he doesn’t believe that the readiness of female troops affects our military’s readiness,” she continued. “That at a time when the military already faces a massive recruiting challenge, he cares more about currying favor with the most fringe parts of his base than promoting the message the Armed Forces takes care of those who sign up.”
In addition to blocking military promotions, Tuberville drew bipartisan heat last week for repeatedly defending white nationalism. The senator claimed that those who believe white people are inherently superior to other racial and ethnic groups are not necessarily racist, but instead simply “Americans.”
“For a member of the United States Senate to speculate about what white nationalism means as if it’s some benign little thought experiment is deeply and terribly disturbing,” Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) said on the Senate floor last week. “I urge my Republican colleagues to impress upon the senator from Alabama the destructive impact of his words and urge him to apologize.”