Republicans Who Threw in the Towel on Marriage Ready to Throw Tuberville under the Bus on Life
If there’s one thing Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) probably misses from college football, it’s a real team. A place where you win and lose together. Instead, the Auburn legend is in the United States Senate, where Republicans don’t seem to know the first thing about having each other’s backs — unless it’s finding a soft spot to stick the knife in.
After nine months of standing his ground on the military’s taxpayer-funded abortion policy, Tuberville was used to the barbs from the other side. He singlehandedly faced off against the White House, secretary of Defense, and Democrats without a second thought. But the one group he never thought he’d have to fend off was his own party. “Last time I looked, Republicans are pro-life,” the coach said. But you wouldn’t know it from the growing chorus of senators urging Tuberville to stand down and let the White House openly flout the law.
“Are GOP Senators trying to lose the next election?” former Senator Jim DeMint asked incredulously. “While [the] House GOP fights for pro life policies, to close the border, & hold Biden accountable… GOP Senators attack @SenTuberville’s heroic fight to stop Biden’s taxpayer funding of abortion at [the] DOD.”
Last Wednesday, the Republican tables started to turn when five frustrated senators tried to force the coach’s hand on more than 300 military promotions. For four and a half hours, Tuberville fought off the attacks from his own flank as Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), Mitt Romney (R-Utah), Todd Young (R-Ind.), and surprise joiner, Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), came at him on the Senate floor. But Tuberville wouldn’t be broken, even after 61 tries.
“Sooner or later,” Tuberville told Family Research Council President Tony Perkins, “people are going to step up and hopefully come up with a solution to this. [Instead, they’re] coming up and kind of pounding me, wondering, ‘What are you doing?’” The same thing “I did last week, probably 15, 16 times against Democrats. … This time it was Republicans. And, you know, I think people are kind of getting frustrated. … The Israeli-Hamas war kind of… heated it up a little bit. They’re hollering at me because they think it’s readiness,” he said. “But hey — I’m not in charge of readiness. The people over in the Pentagon are in charge of readiness.”
For the record, Tuberville said, “Every job is filled. But most people don’t understand this. I’m not holding up nominations. I just don’t want them [to be done] all at one time, 300 or 400 of them. They can bring up two or three in a day, but they don’t do it.”
And for onlookers, that’s probably the most puzzling thing about this mess. If this were a serious crisis (which multiple military experts have assured America it is not), then why isn’t the Senate exhausting every avenue to vote these flag officers in? What else is the Senate doing? Certainly not appropriations, since they haven’t passed a single department spending bill all year. Frankly, if they’d used the time working through these nominations that they’ve spent complaining about Tuberville, this whole argument would be moot. Especially since, as so many have pointed out, nothing coach has done prevents Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) from acting on these promotions. “It doesn’t stop them,” Perkins reminded people. “It makes them have to vote.”
As others have argued on repeat, that’s also not the only way to solve this standoff. The Pentagon could also rescind the policy to hang military abortions around the necks of taxpayers, since it was against the law to begin with. “That’s been one of my talking points,” Tuberville insisted. “They could very easily change this policy back. And if they did that, they’d have every one of their nominations confirmed at the snap of a finger. But they care more about abortion … and pushing abortion on the taxpayers than they do about national security. They’re talking about me — [but] they are the ones … preventing us from having national security.”
Meanwhile, it’s a troubling sign to a lot of Americans — including senators like Mike Lee (R-Utah) — that Republicans aren’t rallying around one of their own on a cause as fundamental as human life. “One can’t proudly wear the pro-life label while attacking those who wage the pro-life war,” fumed Lee, who fired off a number of volleys at his GOP colleagues. Tuberville didn’t create this problem, he argued, the Biden administration did by ignoring longstanding law. If the secretary of Defense wants to change that, Lee insisted, “he should run for Congress. You can’t legislate from the E-ring of the Pentagon.”
And yet, the five who turned on Tuberville have even floated the idea of working with Democrats to enact a complete rule change that would sidestep coach’s holds. To succeed, they’d need to get four more Republicans on board with sabotaging their own. “Hopefully they don’t get nine, because if they do this, they’ll set a precedent. That’s never happened in the Senate,” Tuberville said. “Just breaking the rules, just burning the Senate down without any thought.” It’s unbelievable, he shook his head. “They’d rather blow up the Senate than go with the Constitution.”
But should we really be surprised? Four of these five Republicans — Ernst, Sullivan, Romney, and Young — also voted to redefine marriage against their constituents’ wishes and the party’s own platform. Apparently, once you start compromising core values, it’s tough to stop. First, it was marriage, now it’s life. What’s next? Religious freedom? Parental rights?
“There’s talk about suspending rules, there’s talk about changing rules — we’d like to avoid this,” Young told reporters. “There’s a growing block of Republican senators, pro-life senators, who think this is not in furtherance of our national interest or national security and we’re prepared to act if we have to.”
Of course, as most Americans are starting to understand from this debate, there’s a difference between calling yourself pro-life and acting like it. “If you’re wearing a pro-life jersey, you don’t sack your quarterback,” Perkins quipped.
If the GOP wants to abandon him, fine. “That doesn’t bother me,” Tuberville shrugged. “I’m going to hold steadfast. This is an executive overreach by Joe Biden and his administration. And the taxpayers are having to pay something for abortion — and that’s against the law.”
For now, the coach will focus on what he does best: a good game plan. Democrats “have won every battle since I’ve been here in three years, and this is one that they’re not going to win without at least some conversation, a little bit of negotiation.” Unfortunately, Tuberville lamented, the whole world can see “there’s no negotiation skills [in] this White House. It’s their way or the highway. They don’t want to negotiate, but they’re going to have to do something different here …”
Until then, “I’m going to let everybody vent their frustrations,” Tuberville said, referring to his party’s conference meeting Tuesday afternoon. “I’m going to give them my side of the story. … But we need to find solutions. Solutions are what’s going to stop this problem.” Betrayal, weakness, and surrender will not.
Suzanne Bowdey serves as editorial director and senior writer at The Washington Stand.