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Tuberville’s military adviser resigns amidst blockade controversy

A former food critic who’s served as Tommy Tuberville’s top military aide has resigned. It's worth appreciating the details that led him to quit.


Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s brother spoke out via social media this week, saying he felt the need to distance himself from the Alabama Republican. “Due to recent statements by him promoting racial stereotypes, white nationalism and other various controversial topics, I feel compelled to distance myself from his ignorant, hateful rants,” Charles Tuberville wrote.

As it turns out, he wasn’t the only one putting some distance between himself and the far-right senator. Politico reported:

Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) national security adviser told POLITICO that he has resigned over a Washington Post story suggesting he was instrumental in orchestrating the senator’s controversial blockade of hundreds of senior military nominations. A profile by the Washington Post on Friday depicted Morgan Murphy as taking credit for Tuberville’s hold, which has roiled the Department of Defense.

For those who might be new to this story, let’s briefly recap.

For generations, the Senate has confirmed promotions for U.S. military officers as a matter of course. The 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. Tuberville is apparently of the opinion that 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 senator, who hasn’t budged.

The Alabaman’s blockade has been condemned by the Pentagon, which has 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. What’s more, literally every living former Defense secretary from the past quarter-century — including two former Republican members of the Senate — recently signed on to a joint statement to Senate leaders with a simple message: Tuberville is hurting the military with his blockade.

Even other GOP senators have expressed discomfort with the Alabaman's antics.

It wasn’t long before some started wondering who put this terrible idea in the GOP senator’s head. The answer, according to a Washington Post report published last week, was Morgan Murphy — a former food critic who’s served as Tuberville’s top military aide.

In fairness, it’s worth emphasizing that Murphy has said he merely presented the senator with options, including a possible blockade on military nominations, and it was Tuberville who made the final call.

Nevertheless, the story didn’t do the senator or his office any favors, and Murphy has stepped down.

Tuberville’s blockade, however, continues, and it will apparently apply to Air Force Gen. C.Q. Brown Jr., who is supposed to become the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

There’s growing talk in Democratic circles that Senate leaders can’t allow an abuse like this to continue indefinitely, and members can change what one House Democrat described as “stupid, arcane, [and] selfish rules.”

Senate leaders have not expressed a willingness to overhaul the chamber’s traditions on holds — though the longer Tuberville’s tantrum continues, the more likely it is Democratic members will rethink their comfort with the status quo.

This post revises our related earlier coverage.