Sen. Tuberville Refuses to Back Down on His Block on Military Promotions

Tuberville has refused to allow the promotion of senior military officials until the Defense Department ends its policy of paying for service members’ abortion travel. Wednesday’s debate displayed the growing disunity of Republicans’ approach to the Biden administration’s abortion policy in the military.

An aerial view of the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., May 11, 2021
An aerial view of the Pentagon, Washington, D.C., May 11, 2021 (photo: DOD photo by U.S. Air Force Staff Sgt. Brittany A. Chase; public domain)

Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville defied both Democrats and several Republicans in an hourslong debate on the Senate floor Wednesday night, forcing individual roll call votes on senior military promotions. 

Tuberville refused to allow the promotion of senior military officials until the Defense Department ends its policy of paying for service members’ abortion travel.

A small group of Republicans took to the Senate floor to accuse the 69-year-old Alabama Republican of negatively affecting U.S. military readiness after he objected to motion after motion for unanimous consent.

Tuberville, who has been blocking the senior military promotions since February, objected to attempts to unanimously approve the promotion of more than 60 officers on Wednesday.

His block forced individual roll call votes on three promotions on Thursday.

Three top military officials were confirmed in individual votes on Thursday afternoon. Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti and Air Force Gen. David Allvin were confirmed in 95-1 votes, and Marine Corps Lt. Gen. Christopher Mahoney was confirmed in an 86-0 vote.


Republicans Feud Over Tuberville’s Abortion Blockade

The group of Republicans who took aim at Tuberville included Sens. Dan Sullivan (Alaska), Lindsey Graham (South Carolina), Mitt Romney (Utah), Todd Young (Indiana) and Joni Ernst (Iowa).

Sullivan said that although he is “as pro-life as they come,” he believes that Tuberville’s holds “pose strategic risks to our forces.”  

According to Sullivan, there are currently 376 senior military officials being held up by Tuberville’s hold, and an estimated 89% will be affected by the end of the year.

“This is hugely disruptive to readiness,” Sullivan said.

“Our country is being challenged on multiple fronts across the globe. We literally have American troops under attack in the Middle East,” Sullivan said on the floor. “America needs our best players, most combat-capable leaders on the field. Right now, that’s not happening and that needs to change.”

“This is doing great damage to our military,” Graham said.

“If you think it’s illegal, go to court,” he went on, adding that “if this gets to be the norm, you’re going to wreck the military promotion system.”

Tuberville responded to the accusations by firmly denying his blockade is negatively impacting the nation’s military readiness, a position he has held for months.

“My hold is not affecting readiness,” Tuberville said. “The Biden administration has been saying this for months, but nobody has an explanation, nobody. The fact is that no jobs are going unfilled. Every job is being done. In fact, Gen. Mark Milley [the recently retired head of the military Joint Chiefs of Staff] said recently that our readiness is the best that it has been in years.”

“Time and again, generals and service members have assured me that they’re ready to go,” he went on. “I believe them, so I’m going to keep my holds in place.”

According to Tuberville, his hold is not only about abortion but also about following the rule of law.

“Nine months ago, the Pentagon announced that they would start using our taxpayer dollars to facilitate abortion. The Pentagon is now paying for travel and extra time off for service members and their dependents to get abortions. Congress never voted for this; we also never appropriated the money for this,” he said. “There’s no law that allows them to do this. In fact, there is a law that says they can’t do this.”

Tuberville was referring to the Hyde Amendment, which bans federal tax dollars from being used for abortion. 

“This is a policy that is illegal and immoral,” he went on. “This is about life and it’s also about the rule of law; it’s about our Constitution.”

While the small group of Republicans, along with the White House and Senate Democrats, accused Tuberville of playing politics with military readiness, Tuberville said Democrats are to blame because they failed to bring individual promotions to a vote sooner.

“This has been going on for nine months. Every day this continues is a day that Democrats think that abortion is more important than the nomination and our military,” he said. “If senators want to vote on these nominees one by one, I’m all-in; I’m happy to do that. But I will keep my hold in place until the Pentagon follows the law or the Democrats change the law.”


Military Promotions Approved in Individual Votes

The Senate individually approved the nominations of several top military officials on Thursday, something Tuberville has repeatedly pushed for. The three are among several senior military officers who have been confirmed in individual votes by the Senate since Tuberville’s blockade began.

Though Tuberville has thus far been successful in forcing individual votes on the promotions, Wednesday’s debate displayed the growing disunity of Republicans’ approach to the Biden administration’s abortion policy in the military.

Meanwhile, Rhode Island Democratic Sen. Jack Reed introduced a resolution on Tuesday to allow the senior military promotions to be grouped together and passed in a single vote. At least nine Republicans would have to vote in favor of Reed’s resolution for it to successfully bypass Tuberville’s blockade.

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