Precedented: Tommy Tuberville Isn’t the First to Hold Up Military Promotions
One of the Senate’s pro-life leaders has rebuffed claims that he is “aiding and abetting communism” by holding up promotions of top military brass until the Biden administration rescinds a policy forcing taxpayers to fund abortion-related travel for enlisted mothers. His office has also refuted the notion that his actions are “unprecedented” by furnishing The Washington Stand with a list of prior holds on military promotions — initiated by Democrats and Republicans alike — stretching back 31 years.
The Biden administration has launched a pitched attack against Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), who announced he would not allow unanimous consent for roughly 300 military promotions until Biden reversed his executive fiat on abortion-related funding for military personnel. This week, Biden’s secretary of the Navy, Carlos Del Toro, accused Tuberville of “aiding and abetting communist and other autocratic regimes.” Senator Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) called Tuberville’s actions “abominable and outrageous,” and Senator Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) deplored Tuberville’s pro-life actions as “shabby and lowlife.”
Tuberville forcefully rebutted those notions, citing his own military-related loss. “I grew up in a military family. My dad was career military and died on active duty. There’s no bigger fan of the military than me,” Tuberville told Fox News host Laura Ingraham on Wednesday. “I didn’t think I’d come up here and ever be associated with terrorism and communism as a United States senator. No, that’s wrong.”
Biden is piqued, because “nobody’s told them no in three years,” said Tuberville.
Numerous polls over multiple decades confirm the majority of Americans oppose taxpayer-funded abortion, whether at home or abroad. As a U.S. senator, President Biden regularly voted against taxpayer funding of abortion. Yet the Biden administration unilaterally announced in February that the Defense Department would grant 21 days paid leave for a mother in the armed forces to obtain an abortion. In July, Pentagon spokesman John Kirby called funding abortion-related travel the “foundational, sacred obligation of military leaders.”
One of the military leaders affected by Tuberville’s seven-month hold is Biden’s choice to replace General Mark Milley as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Air Force General C.Q. Brown. Yet Senate Democrats privately admitted they refuse to confirm him, even though doing so fits with Senate tradition. “The Senate typically holds a floor vote on the Joint Chiefs nominee due to the importance of the job,” Punchbowl News reported. “Yet given Tuberville’s ongoing blockade of senior-level military promotions, Democrats are hesitant to put Brown’s nomination on the floor because it would set a precedent for all of the other promotions the Alabama Republican is blocking.” Senator Jack Reed (D-R.I.) confirmed the Democrats’ rationale to Punchbowl News congressional reporter Max Cohen.
Schumer refuses to hold a separate confirmation vote for General Brown, because doing so would “reveal that he is politicking with this nomination. 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,” Quena González, senior director of Government Affairs at Family Research Council, told The Washington Stand.
The Senate could have confirmed 108 officers if it worked a typical eight-hour workday instead of breaking for a five-week recess in the month of August, according to former Senate staffer and Washington Examiner columnist Conn Carroll.
Tuberville took exception to the Left’s top-down view of military supremacy. “They’re saying the generals and admirals are most important. The most important people we have in the military or the sergeants, the corporals, the privates, the second lieutenants, the first lieutenants — the people who actually do the work, not the people [who] ride around in these black limousines in Washington, D.C. and have a nice office over in the Pentagon.”
Alternately, “the White House could reverse its unlawful, paid abortion DoD travel policy,” González noted. The senator and former coach said he would gladly lift his hold, if Biden agreed to “go back to the old policy, then bring it to a vote, and we’ll vote on it. And whichever way it goes, I’m fine. They don’t want any vote on this.” Ingraham agreed that Senate Democrats “don’t want to put vulnerable senators,” like Joe Manchin (D-W.Va.), Jon Tester (D-Mont.), or Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio) “in a tight spot. Instead, they want to say that abortion is integral to the military mission.”
“They see this issue as a winner in 2024,” said Ingraham.
The Associated Press described Tuberville’s campaign as “unprecedented.” Senator Tuberville’s office furnished The Washington Stand with a list of senators who refused to allow unanimous consent for as many as 9,000 people, as far back as 1992:
- 2023: Senator Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) threatened to hold Pentagon nominees, because he was upset his home state lost its bid for the U.S. Space Command headquarters. Despite Bennet’s claims to the contrary, reports show his hold would have applied to six Pentagon nominees;
- 2020: Senator Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) announced that she would block the Senate confirmation of more than 1,100 senior military promotions to force then-Secretary of Defense Mark Esper to promote Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman;
- 2010: Then-Senator Jim Webb (D-Va.) threatened to hold all Pentagon military nominations until the Defense Department explained its decision to close a military base in his state;
- 2010:Senator Richard Shelby (R-Ala.) placed a hold on all executive branch nominees to push back against the Pentagon’s tanker bidding process;
- 2003: Senator Larry Craig (R-Ida.) held more than 200 Air Force promotions to demand the Air Force honor a commitment he said was made in 1996 to add four C-130 transport planes to a half-squadron already in place at Gowen Air National Guard Base in Boise;
- 1997: Then-Senators Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Don Nickles (R-Okla.), and Robert Bennett (R-Utah) held the promotion of Lt. Gen. George Babbit to protect the jobs at Air Force repair depots in California and Texas. To retaliate, then-Senator Phil Gramm (R-Texas) held more than 40 general officer promotions;
- 1996: Then-Intelligence Committee Chairman Arlen Specter (then a Republican, later a Democrat, of Pennsylvania) held hundreds of promotions — including commission for the U.S. Naval Academy’s graduating class — in protest of Secretary of Defense William Perry’s refusal answer questions about the nation’s spy agencies. “Chairman Specter routinely blocked consideration of officer promotions,” Senator Tuberville’s office noted; and
- 1992: The Senate held up the promotion and transfer of approximately 9,000 Navy and Marine officers until the Navy provided evidence to prove none of the individuals were involved in the Tailhook scandal. A bipartisan coalition of then-Senators Sam Nunn (D-Ga.), John Warner (R-Va.), John Glenn (D-Ohio), and John McCain (R-Ariz.) orchestrated the hold.
Tuberville denied Biden’s claims that his hold impacts military readiness after vetting all the nominees. He accused the Biden administration of promoting people based on Affirmative Action, not competence, in a rush to “check boxes, talk about [diversity, equity, and inclusion]. Everything is about equity.” He felt less than confident that the U.S. military under Biden has more lethal power than the People’s Liberation Army of China. He added Biden’s foreign policy has cemented Russia’s alliance with China and seen the emergence of BRICS as a potential economic counterweight to U.S. hegemony. The addition of numerous Gulf states to BRICS complicates the geopolitical picture, said Tuberville, because “Pinocchio Joe does not want to dig for any oil.”
Tuberville’s hold does not affect readiness, because “most of these people are going to retire” shortly, said Family Research Council executive vice president Lt. Gen. Jerry Boykin (Ret.) on “Washington Watch with Tony Perkins” Wednesday evening. The Biden administration merely fears the hold will interfere with pro-Biden officers “to get out of the military and go chase the million dollars that they will get for sitting on boards” of corporations, universities, and NGOs.
Boykin called Tuberville “a strong man, and he’ll go the distance in this fight.”
The senator showed no signs of backing down, publicly or privately, revealing that he has sensed greater support from Senate Republican leader Mitch McConnell (Ky.) and others in leadership.
“It’s a hard topic to get on top of, but we’re pro-life,” concluded Senator Tuberville.
Ben Johnson is senior reporter and editor at The Washington Stand.