Voices: Republicans are furious at Tommy Tuberville. He’s not backing down

Republican Sen Tommy Tuberville, who is leading a blockade of military promotions in the US Senate  (Getty Images)
Republican Sen Tommy Tuberville, who is leading a blockade of military promotions in the US Senate (Getty Images)

At this point, anger at Sen Tommy Tuberville for his block on military promotions is nothing new. But this week, it appears that Republicans are finally reaching their breaking point.

To recap, earlier this year, the Pentagon released a new policy that would reimburse military servicemembers if they traveled to seek an abortion where the procedure is more accessible. In protest, Mr Tuberville put a blanket hold on military promotions in the Senate, where they need unanimous consent (meaning every senator) to pass. The logjam has led to more than 350 positions being vacant.

In September, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer allowed for there to be votes on individual promotions instead of grouping them in the usual blocks. Things finally came to a head when Gen Eric Smith, the commandant of the US Marine Corps confirmed in September, was hospitalised. But because of Mr Tuberville’s hold, the the corps doesn’t have someone in the position who would usually fulfill Gen Smith’s duties.

In turn, a coterie of Republicans, led by Sen Dan Sullivan (R-AK), a reservist in the US Marine Corps; Joni Ernst (R-IA), a National Guard veteran; and Todd Young (R-IN), a Marine Corps veteran, attempted to request unanimous consent on Wednesday evening to force a vote on 61 confirmations. In one floor speech, Ms Ernst all but called Mr Tuberville a liar.

“We have done best we can to honor the request of a fellow senator that these nominations be brought to floor and voted on individually. I really respect men of their word,” she said. “I do not respect men who do not honor their word.”

The next day, Mr Sullivan continued to seem upset.

“I've been working with Sen Tuberville, more than anybody for last nine months, right,” he told reporters. “I've worked with him all the time. And last night was just, you know, a demonstration of frustration.”

On Thursday, Mr Sullivan also seemed to imply Mr Tuberville did not know what he was talking about, specifically when it came to military readiness.

“No offense, but I'm the ranking member on readiness,” he said. The blanket hold has negatively impacted morale, Mr Sullivan added, noting that servicemembers had gotten in touch.

“I'm still getting text messages from colonels and brigadier generals,” he said.

Sen Mitt Romney (R-UT) also told The Independent that Republicans had received an earful from the armed services.

“I think a number of us have received contact from members of the military in our states, describing the stress that has had on them and their families by virtue of not being able to know what their future is,” he said.

It’s unclear whether Republicans would join a resolution from Democrats to circumvent Mr Tuberville’s hold. But friend of the Inside Washington newsletter Burgess Everett of Politico reported that the former Auburn University football coach’s team may have committed an own goal when his communications director sent out a message to anti-abortion groups saying that Republicans who joined in the resolution should face primary challengers.

If that sounds familiar, it’s because Republicans in the House who supported Jim Jordan’s bid to become speaker all but threatened his opponents with primary challengers. The House, particularly Republicans in the House, has always had a more roundhouse style compared to the Senate and Mr Romney hinted that Mr Tuberville may have crossed a line.

But when I caught up with Mr Tuberville, he distanced himself from the message from his own office.

“That was uncalled for,” he said. “I don't know why you put anything like that in the email.”

At the same time, Mr Tuberville remained defiant that he would not change course.

“We should have been doing two or three every Thursday,” he said. “We could have targeted every Thursday and done this. We could have had most of these done.”