Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-Ill.) sharply criticized her colleague Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) on Sunday for his continual blockade of military nominations, saying the Alabama Republican is “holding the entire nation’s national security hostage.”
Tuberville has for months refused to support about 200 promotions for military officers over a Pentagon policy that provides travel reimbursements and leave for service members to seek abortions out-of-state, which was updated after the Supreme Court voted to overturn the landmark Roe v. Wade.
The GOP senator has called on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to rescind the effort, pledging to stand in the way of the usual unanimous consent process to approve military promotions to the ire of his colleagues. Tuberville also said he would allow the promotions to advance if Democrats hold a vote on legislation that would end the Pentagon policy, even if it was largely guaranteed the bill would fail, but the party has refused to do so.
Duckworth told MSNBC on Sunday that Tuberville was risking the safety of the nation “for his own personal social agenda.”
“There’s a process that can change that policy,” Duckworth, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said on the network’s “The Sunday Show,” pointing to the National Defense Authorization Act, which is set by Congress each year. “But instead he’s holding out the promotions of hundreds of generals hostage and these are people who are going to be you know, the general in charge of all logistics for the army. … He’s really putting our national security at risk for his personal social agenda.”
"[Sen. Tuberville] is holding out the promotions of hundreds of generals hostage...he's really putting our national security at risk for his personal social agenda" @SenDuckworth reacts to Tuberville pressuring the Defense Department to change its abortion policies #SundayShowpic.twitter.com/JMjsGiwzN0
— The Saturday/Sunday Show with Jonathan Capehart (@weekendcapehart) May 21, 2023
Tuberville has argued that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) could bring nominations to the chamber floor individually, but doing so would require votes for each nominee rather than a traditional unanimous consent measure.
His actions have frustrated lawmakers on both sides of the aisle, including Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.). Austin also wrote to lawmakers earlier this month, saying Tuberville’s actions posed a “clear risk to U.S. military readiness,” adding that no single senator had every held up so many officers in the past. He said the hold could impact up to 650 officers that will require Senate confirmation by the end of the year, according to The Associated Press.
“Not approving the recommendation for promotions actually creates a ripple effect through the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be,” Austin told lawmakers in March.
Tuberville has defended his efforts in recent weeks, accusing the Pentagon of providing “taxpayer-funded abortions” against federal law and vowing to stand in the way until the Pentagon shifts tack. In a tweet on Sunday, he once again stood by his actions.
“No matter how much misinformation Democrats spread, I will continue to stand up to the most politicized Pentagon in American history,” he wrote.
The Pentagon announced its updated policies in February, saying it would pay for service members to travel out-of-state for abortion care and provide up to three weeks of administrative leave. Austin has defended the policy, saying thousands of women in the military are required to live in areas that have limitations on reproductive health care.