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Sen. Tommy Tuberville during a campaign rally at Minden-Tahoe Airport on October 8 in Minden, Nev.Justin Sullivan / Getty Images

McConnell, DOD reject GOP senator’s blockade on military promotions

Literally every living former Pentagon chief from the 26 years said a GOP senator is undermining U.S. security. Now, even Mitch McConnell says he agrees.


It was just last week when literally every living former Pentagon chief from the past quarter-century — including two former Republican members of the Senate — signed on to a joint statement to Senate leaders with a simple message: Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville is hurting the military with his blockade on military promotions.

They were hardly alone. For months, all kinds of officials have tried to convince the far-right Alabama senator to be more responsible. He’s ignored them.

This morning, Democratic leaders released a new letter from Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, who said the Republican senator’s tactic poses a “clear risk” to the nation’s military readiness and directly affects the lives of service members’ families.

This afternoon, as Politico reported, even Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he disapproves of Tuberville’s approach.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell split from one of his own Republicans on Wednesday over halting quick approval of military promotions -- evidence of some discomfort within the Senate GOP over the ongoing blockade. ... “No, I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations. I don’t support that. As to why, you need to ask Sen. Tuberville,” McConnell told reporters on Wednesday.

When NPR in Alabama asked the senator to explain his position, Tuberville said he feels justified. Here’s what he told WBHM’s Richard Banks:

“Well, it goes back to one thing that I talked about, legislating from the White House and from the Department of Defense. We’ve had an abortion policy. This is not about abortion. We’ve had abortions for years in the military. We have a law in this country called the Hyde Amendment that says taxpayer money will not be used for abortions, because some people believe in it, some people don’t. Again, this is a change in the policy from the White House.”

In case anyone needs a refresher, let’s revisit our recent coverage to review how we arrived at this point.

For generations, the Senate has confirmed promotions for U.S. military officers as a matter of course. As regular readers know, Congress can be slow and frustrating, but this process has always been simple, quick and efficient — the nominees are usually packaged together for one uncontroversial vote — not only to benefit those in uniform, but also because senators don’t want to be seen as anti-military.

At least, not usually. Tuberville, however, has spent months blocking 184 military promotions — not because he has concerns about officers’ qualifications, but as part of a broader tantrum over a policy dispute.

The GOP senator — whose most meaningful association with the military was coaching the losing team in the 2014 Military Bowl — objects to a Pentagon policy that provides troops and their family members paid leave and stipends to travel for abortions or for fertility treatments.

As Tuberville sees it, the policy is at odds with existing federal law. He has no background in such matters, and lawyers who know what they're talking about completely disagree, but that hasn't swayed the confused senator.

In theory, the Alabaman could support a legal challenge, putting the matter in the courts, but the lawmaker has instead imposed a blockade against military promotions, saying he’ll continue to wreak havoc until the policy ends, no matter the consequences.

In addition to his country’s military leaders, his own party’s Senate leader thinks he’s wrong. Tuberville doesn’t care.

The next time the Republican Party presents itself as a champion of the military and its interests, keep Tuberville’s indefensible antics in mind.

This post revises our related earlier coverage.