Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Photo by Anna Moneymaker/Getty Images
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Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) has held fast in his fight to rid the U.S. military of its woke encumbrances, its "illegal abortion policy" in particular. He has done so despite months of attacks by Democrats and other belittlers who have characterized his principled refusal to approve military nominations en masse as a threat to national security.
The narrative preferred by his critics appears to have crumbled this week when Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, who has long painted Tuberville as a villain and an obstacle to confirmations, "blinked," setting up votes on individual nominees.
Air Force Gen. Charles Q. Brown Jr. was consequently confirmed as Mark Milley's replacement as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff on Wednesday. Thursday, Gen. Randy George of the Army and Gen. Eric Smith of the Marines were confirmed as chiefs of staff for their respective services, reported the New York Times.
While Schumer and other Democrats have since attempted to save face, Tuberville stressed Thursday on the Senate floor, "This is a win today for the legislative branch of government," adding, "If Democrats want to complain then they should look in the mirror."
What's the background?
In the wake of the Supreme Court's Dobbs ruling, which overturned Roe v. Wade, there was a great deal of chatter at the Department of Defense about the possibility of implementing a policy and corresponding programs whereby taxpayer money would spent on abortion in the military far beyond what is permitted under federal law.
After months of discussion, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin pulled the trigger on the policy, announcing its implementation in a Feb. 16, 2023, memo. This memo detailed how the Pentagon would fund travel for service members and their dependents seeking to exterminate their unborn children and also provide them with paid time off.
In the immediate aftermath, Tuberville told Fox News Digital, "This is an illegal expansion of DoD authority and gross misuse of taxpayer dollars – and I will hold him accountable. The American people want a military focused on national defense, not facilitating a progressive political agenda," adding, "if Secretary Austin wants to change law, he should go through Congress."
Whereas military nominees are usually confirmed in blocks of nominations by unanimous consent, thereby ensuring a speedy turnaround, Tuberville made clear he would invoke senatorial privilege and withhold consent unless the Pentagon reverses what he has deemed an "illegal abortion policy."
Holds do not amount to blocks on nominations but require the majority leader, Schumer presently, to follow formal processes on the Senate floor. Tuberville has repeatedly indicated he's just forcing the Senate to take roll call votes, reported Politico.
Notwithstanding their pearl-clutching over the past eight months, Democrats and other leftists have used or at the very least threatened to use senatorial holds in recent months.
TheBlaze previously reported that Democratic Sen. Michael Bennet of Colorado, a staunch critic of Tuberville's stance, stated in July, "For 230 years, nobody in this chamber has done what the senator from Alabama is doing: put a hold on the military promotions that people in uniform, the flag officers of our Department of Defense, that ordinarily come through here in a customary way to get approved by the Senate."
However, Bennet threatened to hold up Pentagon nominees in January over a decision previously made by former President Donald Trump.
Forbes indicated that Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) recently placed a hold on Biden's nominee to lead the National Institutes of Health.
Tuberville has acknowledged that the backlog of 300 nominees is big and would take a long time to get through but that "Chuck Schumer allowing the backlog to build up over six months is his fault. We could have been confirming one or two a week for the last 200 days. It would have taken us just four hours of voting each week. But we didn't do it. ... Chuck Schumer refused again, and again, and again."
Despite the ability of the Senate to have confirmed nominees as it did this week, many in the Washington establishment appeared keen to discount individual votes as an option.
A number of former secretaries of defense, including Leon Panetta and James Mattis, claimed in a May letter that the "blanket hold on the promotion or reassignment of these senior uniformed leaders is harming readiness and risks damaging U.S. national security."
Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) said, "Tuberville is undermining national security," adding that he has turned "our military into one more political football."
President Joe Biden called Tuberville's actions "totally irresponsible," similarly claiming they stressed national security.
In April, Schumer tweeted, "It is outrageous for GOP Senator Tuberville to endlessly hold up the promotions of military leaders who've dedicated their lives to serving our country. He's meddling with American security—all because he wants to block servicemembers from accessing reproductive health care.
Schumer, who could have called a vote at any time, has also claimed that the hold "is one of the most abominable and outrageous things I have ever seen in this chamber, witnessed by the fact that no one has ever had the temerity, the gall to do this before."
Narrative destroyed in a blink
Schumer put multiple individual nominations to a vote this week, demonstrating that doing so was possible all along.
"The senior senator from Alabama — Senator Tuberville — for more than six months has continued his brazen, reckless hold of hundreds of routine, non-political promotions of senior military officers," said Schumer on the Senate floor Wednesday. "But due to the extraordinary circumstances of Senator Tuberville’s reckless decisions, Democrats will take action. It’s not the path the vast majority of senators on either side of the aisle want to go down, but Senator Tuberville is forcing us to confront his obstruction head-on."
Tuberville told Fox News Digital, "And so he blinked – we force his hand. ... Now the American people can see they can do it, and hopefully he will continue to do it because I'm not changing my mind on the group at one time."
Tuberville said on the floor Thursday, "Senator Schumer could have confirmed these nominees a long, long time ago."
The Alabama Republican made clear, "The hold will remain in place as long as the Pentagon’s illegal abortion policy remains in place. If the Pentagon lifts the policy, then I will lift my hold. It’s as easy as that."
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Joseph MacKinnon is a staff writer for Blaze News.