June 3, 2023
Republicans and Democrats clashed on the Senate floor over Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) move to block Pentagon promotions.

Republicans and Democrats clashed on the Senate floor over Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-AL) move to block Pentagon promotions.

He is protesting the abortion access policy of the Department of Defense, which he says turns the military into an “abortion travel agency.”


While Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI), Mazie Hirono (D-HI), and Michael Bennet (D-CO) joined the chorus of Democrats opposing the bill, Tuberville was joined in support by Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT). Tuberville argued that his move was not unprecedented as Schumer and the Democrats had claimed, and he pointed to several previous examples of his tactic being used by other senators.

“Sen. Schumer and some of the other senators have claimed that my hold on these nominees is unprecedented. Well, it’s not. My hold is far from unprecedented,” he said. “In fact, Sen. Bennet himself threatened to do the exact same thing just a few months ago. Why? Because the Air Force’s planned to move Space Command from Colorado to Huntsville, Alabama. … Two years ago, we had a senator from Illinois put a hold on 1,000 nominees over the promotion of one single officer. So far, my hold has affected 184 nominations.”

He went on to attack Democrats over their perceived lack of concern over the U.S. military missing its recruiting quotas by a large margin.

“Democrats are in a panic about 184 promotions for generals and officers. Yet I have not heard a word from them about the 15,000 enlisted soldiers we’re missing right now from last year’s recruiting class. That’s an entire division,” he continued. “There’s another 8,600 who were discharged over the President’s vaccine mandate. Kicked out. I don’t hear a word about them from the Democrats. So, the military is down 23,000 enlisted soldiers due to the actions of the Biden administration and his secretary of defense just this past year. Yet Democrats are worried about 184 generals getting their promotions? Only one of those things threatens our security. It is not the officer promotions.”

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Lee offered Republican support for his colleague, arguing that if the Pentagon truly believed the situation was so dire, it should suspend its abortion memorandum and let Congress decide on the policy.

“I suspect if the Department of Defense wanted to really stand behind that, they could offer to suspend this regulation that they’ve issued this — policy memorandum they issued on Feb. 16,” he said. “Suspend that until such time as we can debate it, discuss it, and work on it in the NDAA. Look, let this be a message to Secretary Austin. If you want to make the laws, run for Congress, but you can’t legislate from the E-ring at the Pentagon. You cannot do that. Until then, stand down, and leave the lawmaking to lawmakers.”

Reed repeated his claim that Tuberville’s move was tantamount to holding the Pentagon nominations as “political hostages,” and he claimed it jeopardized national security, especially regarding the rising threat of China.

“Now, I believe in a very strong military based on constitutional professional values. We must not inject political theater in his process. If we do not have a coherent, organized leadership at the Department of Defense, then we’re putting our troops at risk. Quite simple. And to me, it’s unacceptable,” he said.

Hirono took a more direct line of attack on Tuberville’s abortion stance, arguing that abortion is essential for servicewomen.

“But now the senator from Alabama is intentionally politicizing our military. And you all can stand there all you want and say you’re not politicizing. Oh, really? I beg to differ. By blocking numerous promotions simply because he is upset that the DOD is doing its part to protect our service members and addressing their needs,” she said. “Our service members, our women have a need to access appropriate reproductive care. Now, this wasn’t an issue before because guess what? We didn’t have a Supreme Court that upended almost 50 years of a constitutional right that women in this country had.”


Despite the criticism from the Pentagon and Democrats, Tuberville vowed to stand by his position.

“I will stay here until hell freezes over,” he declared. “I am not going to be intimidated by a campaign of selective outrage. And let me remind the chairman: I gave the Pentagon fair warning. They chose to go forward with this policy. … This was the Biden administration’s choice. I’m keeping my word.”

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