The secretaries of the Navy, Air Force and Army claim U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s halting of military promotions “is putting our national security at risk,” but the Alabama Republican told CNN he’s “not budging.”
For six months, Tuberville has placed a one-man “hold” on senior military promotions — 300 so far — to protest a Defense Department policy put in place after the Supreme Court reversed Roe v. Wade last year. The policy provides reimbursements to military personnel who are stationed in states that instituted abortion bans and travel elsewhere for the procedure.
“Three of our five military branches — the Army, Navy and Marine Corps — have no Senate-confirmed service chief in place,” wrote the three civilian military secretaries who criticized Tuberville in the editorial section of the Washington Post.
“Officers and the millions of service members they lead are the foundation of America’s enduring military advantage. Yet this foundation is being actively eroded by the actions of a single U.S. senator … who is blocking the confirmation of our most senior military officers,” the military leaders wrote.
Tuberville, a famous football coach with no previous political or military experience, has the support of groups affiliated with Focus on the Family, which claim the military stipend for abortions is illegal. Even though the Justice Department’s Office of Legal Counsel declared it legal.
Tuberville could try and craft legislation to reverse the Defense Department policy, but victory would be unlikely in the Democrat-controlled Senate. The Republican-controlled House of Representatives already tried to use a July defense spending package to prohibit “woke” military policies regarding abortion, transgender care and diversity, but that bill is likely dead on arrival in the Senate.
Military leaders say Tuberville’s hold is causing widespread stress and handicapping military preparedness because acting officials don’t have the legal authority to make crucial decisions. Officials also say military families are hurting, with some needing to maintain two residences while wondering where their children will attend school and where spouses will work.
“This is an odd position for a coach to take, that the coaches don’t matter in our military.”
Tuberville told CNN, “If I thought I was really harming our military, I wouldn’t be doing this.” But Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., said, “This is an odd position for a coach to take, that the coaches don’t matter in our military.”
“Any claim that holding up the promotions of top officers does not directly damage the military is wrong — plain and simple,” said the three civilian secretaries. But the evangelical Family Research Council claimed, “This whole thing is more propaganda than anything else,” in an article from the Heritage Foundation’s Daily Signal.
Family Research Council has praised Tuberville’s courage in a series of fundraising emails, hailing his “David vs. Goliath standoff with the Biden administration’s Department of Defense and even fellow senators in order to protect unborn lives and the rule of law. … For months he has courageously stood firm. …What if every Bible-believing Christian in America took seriously the calling of Jesus for each of us to be salt and light in the darkening world around us?”
Family Research Council also claimed the Defense Department is acting in bad faith: “Let’s be absolutely clear: The Pentagon’s new abortion policy has everything to do with activist politics and nothing to do with Congress’ obligation to raise and maintain armed forces to provide for the common defense.”
Gary Bauer of the James Dobson Family Institute said the military has gone “woke” in promoting “abortion, transgender ideology and Critical Race Theory / anti-American history.” He claimed this shift is hurting recruitment because “millions of American families will not encourage their sons and daughters to serve in such a military.”
Focus on the Family’s Daily Citizen also praised Tuberville: “In Washington, D.C., it’s rare for politicians to follow through on commitments they’ve made. But so far, Sen. Tuberville has done exactly that.”
But Tuberville has not followed through on a campaign pledge he made to veterans.
In a campaign video he released in March 2020, Tuberville argued he was more pro-military than his primary opponent, Republican Jeff Sessions. As the Washington Post reported, he made a startling pledge: “I stand with our veterans and I’m going to donate every dime I make when I’m in Washington, D.C., to the veterans of the state of Alabama.”
Tuberville has earned about $437,000 in salary but does not appear to have donated a dime of it to his foundation.
Over the past two and a half years, Tuberville has earned about $437,000 in salary but does not appear to have donated a dime of it to his foundation, which was created in 2014 to help veterans. The foundation’s total 2021 income was $74,101, and it spent about 12% of that on program services.
A 2020 analysis by the Alabama Political Reporter found minimal spending on its stated mission of helping veterans has been a long-term problem at the foundation: “Tommy Tuberville’s veterans support nonprofit raised more than $250,000 over five years but spent just 18% on charitable causes.”
Tuberville has not explained his failure to keep his pledge to donate his salary to help veterans.