Dems Blame Tuberville for Marine Chief’s Heart Attack
Marine Corps Commandant General Eric Smith suffered an apparent heart attack while jogging Sunday, and Senate Democrats have blamed the medical emergency on Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.). “This scary incident involving General Smith shows why it’s supremely risky to play politics with military appointments, as Sen. Tuberville is doing,” orated U.S. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.).
Since February, Tuberville has slowed promotions for more than 300 senior military officials by requiring the Senate to hold individual votes on each nominee, in response to the Pentagon’s policy to pay for abortion-related travel.
For months, Schumer refused to schedule votes on any military appointments, although the Senate could have confirmed as many as 108 nominees had it worked eight-hour days instead of taking a five-week recess in August, according to former Senate staff Conn Carroll.
Schumer was reluctant to hold floor votes on individual nominees because doing so would “reveal that he is politicking with this nomination,” Quena González, senior director of Government Affairs at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand. “They don’t want it to become widely known that they could, in fact, confirm every single one of the 300 or so promotions being held if they were willing to spend floor time on them.”
In September, Tuberville revealed plans to file a motion to force the Senate to vote on the nominees for three vacancies on the Joint Chiefs of Staff. In response, Schumer scheduled their nominations for a vote, and the Senate confirmed General Charles Brown as the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, General Randy George as Army Chief of Staff, and General Smith as Commandant of the Marine Corps.
Smith’s promotion in September vacated his previous post as assistant commandant of the Marine Corps, the second highest-ranking office in the Marines. That post remains empty, and Schumer blamed Tuberville’s hold for the vacancy. “Emergencies happen, and when they do, the chain of command must be able to respond. But thanks to Senator Tuberville, there is no current number two at the Marine Corps to fill in,” Schumer complained. He alleged that Tuberville’s hold had “provoked” the “situation at the Marine Corps,” which he called “an avoidable emergency.”
On Tuesday, Tuberville told reporters, in light of Smith’s health , he planned to file another motion to force the Senate to vote on the nominee for the Marine Corps’ number two position, Lt. General Christopher Mahoney. The move prompted Schumer to schedule votes on Mahoney and two more top military nominees, Admiral Lisa Franchetti, nominated to be chief of Naval Operations, and General David Allvin, nominated to be Air Force chief of staff.
Other Senate Democrats went further than Schumer in their attacks on Tuberville. Sen. Richard Blumenthal (D-Conn.) called Tuberville’s hold “a desperate threat to our national security.” U.S. Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.), who chairs the Senate Armed Services Committee, even implied that Tuberville’s hold might have been responsible for the medical emergency. “One of the reasons, I think contributed to his condition was he was doing two jobs at once. I’ve read where he was working from 5 a.m. to 11 p.m.,” he said.
“It’s really the Biden administration who is forcing him to do two jobs because of their abortion policy,” Family Research Council President Tony Perkins disagreed. “Our military right now is having to do two jobs: the social engineering of the Left and defending our country.”
“The White House could reverse its unlawful, paid abortion DOD travel policy,” said González. Tuberville said he would lift his hold if the DoD would “go back to the old policy, then bring [the new abortion policy] to a vote, and we’ll vote on it. And whichever way it goes, I’m fine.” But, Tuberville argued, “They don’t want any vote on this.”
But Schumer is so far unwilling to pursue this option. “Senator Tuberville should drop his blanket holds at once,” he demanded. “And in the meantime, the Senate will proceed to confirm these nominations that should have been swiftly approved long ago, as has been custom in the Senate for decades.”
Placing a hold on military promotions is one of the few forms of leverage available for senators to hold the Pentagon accountable, and the tactic has been used or threatened at least eight times since 1992. In January 2023, Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) threatened to hold Pentagon nominees because his state lost its bid to house the headquarters of U.S. Space Command. In 2020, Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) threatened to hold up 1,100 senior military promotions to pressure President Trump’s Defense Secretary, Mark Esper, to promote Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, a key witness against Trump in the first impeachment inquiry.
Tuberville’s hold began in February 2023, after several warnings to the DOD over their policy to fund abortion-related travel for servicemembers and their families, which he called a “radical plan to facilitate thousands of abortions a year with taxpayer dollars.” In December 2022, 66 members of Congress had notified Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that “funding travel and transportation to obtain non-covered, elective abortions through the DOD would, in and of itself violate federal law.”
Tuberville has maintained his hold on military promotions, despite intense pressure to drop it — even from fellow Republicans and a Fox News reporter — because the DOD has not changed its abortion policy.
Joshua Arnold is a senior writer at The Washington Stand.