“Some people like it, some people don’t understand it. Some of our older military people are not really happy about it; they understand it better than anybody,” Carl said.
The episode is in some ways a microcosm of the GOP as a whole, as the party weighs how far to take its opposition to President Joe Biden and his policies heading into a presidential election. In this case, one member is using the scorched earth tactic to fight the Biden administration over abortion policy, leaving other Republicans to blame for it.
Take home Sen. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska), who said “everyone asks me this.” This is the time of year when military families in Alaska pack up and move to new posts, she said: “And if you don’t have the opportunity to move because promotions have been held up, you can’t make it happen.”
“We see the impact here because it’s very visible to us,” she said. “There is someone who knows how to fix this.”
Because of Tuberville’s blockade, the Marine Corps is now operating without a commandant, the highest-ranking officer in the branch, for the first time in over 150 years. Late. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska) looked into going around Tuberville’s team and forcing a vote this week to confirm the nominee for that post, an incredibly rare move for the minority party.
In the end, Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell successfully argued against it, in part because of the precedent it would set for the chamber’s minority party to force votes, according to a person familiar with the matter. The Senate adjourned Thursday without a resolution.
Tuberville said he is disappointed that he and Defense Minister Lloyd Austin could not come to terms in several brief phone conversations this month. But he is otherwise unfazed by the backlash: “I don’t represent the conference, I represent the people of Alabama.”
“I have a huge support. If I had been hammered … by 60-70 percent of people from my state, veterans, I mean, then you have to start thinking, ‘Am I doing the right thing?'” he explained in an interview.
He doesn’t feel the heat at home. Republicans in the ruby red state are staunchly anti-abortion, though some of his colleagues worry that risking national security might be a step too far. Democrats argue that if a tragedy occurs because of a halted military promotion, the blame could fall on Tuberville and his allies.
But opposing Tuberville isn’t great optics for Alabama Republicans either. He has stuck them between a Biden administration policy they oppose and an ensuing national security debate.
“I’m a little conflicted. I like to see them have consequences for implementing a policy that I have nothing to do with. It creates political problems for them,” the rep said. Mike Rogers (R-Ala.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, arguing that the Biden administration “created this situation.”
Rogers said the White House is also benefiting from the fight by giving it a chance to defend abortion rights after the fall Roe v. Wade. As for the general response back in Alabama about Tuberville, Rogers said, “They love it. They think he’s great.”
“It worked for the White House because their base is fighting for abortion rights. It worked for Republicans like Tommy Tuberville because of our base,” said Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah). “It’s just not good for the American military.”
It’s a somewhat awkward position for Tuberville’s colleague, Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.). In a brief interview, the first-term Republican criticized the Pentagon’s policy but did not say whether she agreed with Tuberville’s tactics.
“We need to get the policy out of the Pentagon — that we are not going to use taxpayer money in any way, shape or form to make it easier for a woman who is eight months pregnant to take the life of the child,” Britt said. Spokesman Sean Ross said Britt has been “consistent” in this view.
Compared to Tuberville’s many sparring matches with Democrats on the Senate floor, however, Britt is reserved. Rep. Barry Moore (R-Ala.), a member of the far-right House Freedom Caucus, wants her to do more.
“The whole Senate should wake up, certainly our delegation, and say we’re with Coach on this,” Moore said. “We should all be engaged.”
However, most other Alabama Republicans shrugged off the suggestion that Britt more forcefully join Tuberville’s efforts. First-term Rep. Dale Strong (R-Ala.) said simply: “He has his decisions to make, she has hers.” Due to Senate rules, it would not make much difference if Tuberville had other senators to hold nominees alongside him.
“Each member makes individual decisions about what they do. I don’t think Katie needs to interfere. Tommy is very effective,” echoed Rep. Gary Palmer (R-Ala.), a member of the GOP leadership.
Tuberville has gotten some backup from Sen. Mike Lee (R-Utah) and other conservatives. They see little reason to back down: They disagree with Pentagon policy and how it was unilaterally implemented, and if the Pentagon wants promotions, they say it can change its policy.
“I don’t care what other people think. I’m very comfortable with Sen. Tuberville’s position,” said Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.). “It’s within the military’s complete control to fix this, and they won’t. “
At this point, it is hard to imagine either Tuberville or the Department of Defense changing course. Tuberville has faced mild criticism from some Republicans who disagree with his methods of punishing military draftees who had no hand in creating abortion policy.
Internally, McConnell has argued that while protecting the rights of individual senators is important, it could force the Democratic majority to change the rules and strip those rights, according to a person familiar with the talks. Still, Tuberville said McConnell has remained somewhat supportive.
“He’s come to me and said, ‘Hey, you gotta do what you gotta do.’ Now I might not do it the way you do it,” Tuberville recalled.