By now, nine months into his one-man hold on military promotions, Sen. Tommy Tuberville has to be used to criticism. Democrats and military officials have been skewering him for the entirety of the hold period, which is currently preventing hundreds of promotions and causing upheaval within military ranks.
But on Wednesday evening, Tuberville was treated to a new kind of skewering – from his Republican colleagues.
Tired of taking criticisms themselves over Tuberville’s holds – and angered over Tuberville continuing to block the promotions even after the Senate took them up individually – his fellow Republicans took to the Senate floor, one by one, and absolutely trounced Alabama’s senior senator, with one senator calling the holds “a national security suicide mission.”
“It is really unfortunate that tonight these men and women have been denied their promotions,” Iowa Sen. Joni Ernst said. “We have done the best we can to honor the request of a fellow senator that these nominations be brought to the floor and voted on individually. I really respect men of their word. I do not respect men who do not honor their word.
“We gave opportunity to nearly 60 of them this evening, bringing the nominations, individually, to the floor. I anticipated a man of his word would honor his word.”
Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan led the charge against Tuberville on Wednesday, and he used bare facts to expose what he called “the real harm” that Tuberville’s holds are having on the military. Sullivan noted that 288 one- and two-star generals’ promotions are being held up, and said that by the end of the year an estimated 89 percent of all general officer positions will be negatively impacted by the holds.
Sullivan also got specific. Following one of Tuberville’s 61 objections to individual officer promotions, Sullivan said: “That last nominee – fifth fleet commander. So, you may have heard that there are two aircraft carrier strike groups in the Middle East. That’s the naval officer who would be in charge of all of that. Right there. We could have put him in charge. Pretty important to have a fifth-fleet commander ready to go. We’re bringing these up one by one. I thought this is what my colleague from Alabama said he was good to go with.”
South Carolina Sen. Lindsay Graham also was highly critical of Tuberville, and noted the “dangerous precedent” being set by Tuberville, who is blocking the promotions because he’s unhappy with a Department of Defense policy that reimburses military personnel for travel expenses when they are forced to travel outside of the state where they’re stationed in order to receive medical services, including abortions.
“We have courts. If you think they’ve done something illegal, go to court,” Graham told Tuberville. “That’s how you handle these things.”
At one point, Graham held up a photo of a female military officer who had been denied a promotion by Tuberville’s continued objections to the individual promotions. Graham pointed at Tuberville and said, “This lady was denied a promotion. She had nothing to do with the policy. You did this to her.”
“Let me say again, everybody in this body could find an issue with any administration they don’t agree with,” Graham said. “And what we’re going to do is open up Pandora’s Box. Today, it’s abortion policy. There’s a reason this hasn’t been done this way for a couple hundred years. No matter whether you believe it or not, Senator Tuberville, this is doing great harm to our military. I don’t say that lightly. I’ve been trying to work with you for nine months.”
Graham went on to describe how the holds could end up having an even more devastating effect on the military, because there is a time limit on promotions. If those promotions don’t go through soon, Graham said, the personnel will be forced out of the military.
“Now how does that help anybody if they’re qualified?” Graham asked.
Sullivan backed Graham, saying he’s heard from admirals and generals who are tired of being left in military purgatory. “We’re seeing … admirals and generals saying ‘I’m getting out,” or they have to get out if they’re going to be timed out,” Sullivan said.
Sullivan’s criticism didn’t stop with the harm the holds are having, though. He also went after the rhetoric Tuberville has used to defend the holds. Tuberville has, at times, criticized the military for being “woke” and made comments critical of the number of officer positions in the military.
“The idea that some of these officers are supposedly woke or desk jockeys – it’s ridiculous,” Sullivan said. “These are some of the most combat experienced generals and admirals we’ve had in our country.”
Sullivan also speculated that the adversarial leaders of other countries were watching Tuberville block the promotions of deserving generals and were “loving this.”
“How dumb can we be?” Sullivan asked, exasperated.