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GOP Civil War: How Tuberville United the Senate — Against Him

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Frustrations on both sides of the aisle erupted over Alabama Senator Tommy Tuberville’s military promotion blockade, which has been persistent for nine long months.

Last week, GOP Senators attempted to unanimously approve 61 military promotions by voice vote for a period that lasted over 4 hours. Tuberville stood and rejected each and every single nomination, as his colleagues’ frustrations grew.

Tuberville first announced the hold in response to a Pentagon abortion policy.

But after an unprecedented showdown in the Senate, and scheduled meetings planned for the upcoming weeks, it’s not yet clear Tuberville is willing to let go of his grudge any time soon.

But it’s pretty clear that his own party is furious, and rightfully so, it seems that Republicans are about to go beyond speeches and take action to remove Tuberville’s hold, which is rooted in opposition to abortion policies they also oppose, but have undoubtedly been a cause to a possible threat to national military security.

How did this never-before-seen GOP showdown unfold in the Senate?

Republican senators have grown frustrated with Senator Tommy Tuberville’s nine-month blocking of hundreds of military promotions. After publicly urging the Alabama Republican to end his holds on nearly 400 officers, a dramatic confrontation occurred in the Senate on Wednesday.

Senator Tuberville’s background consists primarily of coaching football, especially at Auburn University where he gained fame and came to personify the state he now serves. He reportedly prefers going by his former role of “coach” over his current Senate title, with his official website even referring to him as “Coach Tommy Tuberville.” However, his nickname from the sideline seems more fitting. “The Riverboat Gambler,” alluding to his willingness to take major risks against long odds.

After Tuberville’s showdown with the senate that lasted about 4 hours and wrapped up for the night at almost 11 p.m, GOP senators are plotting new ways to break his months-long blockade.

Tuberville said on Wednesday there is “zero chance” he will drop the holds. He has maintained that he will keep delaying the nominees until the Pentagon either terminates or submits to a congressional vote of its new policy to cover travel costs when service members need to cross state lines to access abortions or other reproductive healthcare.

Many Republicans contend the Pentagon’s new rules effectively violate laws that prohibit taxpayer funding for most abortions. However, most of them have called to settle the issue in court, and not at the expense of American military personnel.

The Biden administration established this policy after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, which ended nationwide abortion rights. Tuberville insists his holds will continue as a means to force action on reversing the Pentagon’s decision, no matter the consequences. Speaking of consequences, a group of Republican senators confronted Senator Tuberville on the Senate floor late Wednesday, holding him accountable for undermining the military during a time of geopolitical instability.

With the escalating crisis in the Middle East, having deployed two aircraft carriers in the region, as well as concerns about China and Taiwan, this is a moment where the U.S military must be at full readiness, and Tuberville’s blockage of military promotions is definitely not helping.

Senator Dan Sullivan, made sure to address these concerns in the chamber on Wednesday. Senator Dan Sullivan, a 30-year Marine Corps veteran, described the confrontation on Wednesday evening as a “display of exasperation.” However, he remains optimistic about reaching a resolution with Tuberville, who has never served in the military, and trusts the Alabama Republican remains open to good faith discussions on the issue. Sullivan has said “sometimes a challenging night can reshape your perspective” and sees potential for constructive negotiations.

What’s baffling about this incident is the fact that even Tuberville’s fellow GOP senators are angered by his blockade, in a chamber which rarely sees senators attack members of their own political party.

Even democrats have joined in on the fun, as they are devising their own plans to get around the blockade, and are hoping the GOP frustration they see will push Republicans to support their ideas. It seems that Tuberville has managed to do the impossible in the chamber, which is to unite both Republicans and Democrats into feeling enraged over the same thing.

When confronted on the social media platform X, formerly Twitter, Tuberville assured the public that he only cares about “what the people of Alabama want,” which was a very interesting statement from the Alabama Senator, who apparently doesn’t even live in Alabama, but in Florida.

Amid this chaos in the Senate, a special session is scheduled for next week, where some senators will request that Tuberville narrow his obstruction to only civilian Pentagon nominees and stop delaying military officers’ promotions as they have no role in the policy he opposes. Meanwhile, other lawmakers want to transition the debate by legally contesting in the courts the policies at the core of Tuberville’s holds.

On Wednesday, among the many GOP Senators who challenged Tuberville was Senator Joni Ernst of Iowa, who expressed her lack of respect towards Tuberville’s actions.

Another Senator who spoke up in the chamber was Lindsay Graham, who has always been extremely vocal about being pro-military.

Senator Mitt Romney was also among those who expressed deep concern over the blockade, he even went as far as saying it’s an “abuse of power”.

There is a certain irony that Tuberville, who often cites wanting to repay America as his father did through military service, has practically immobilized the entire leadership structure of the U.S. armed forces.

This all went down during a period of intensifying global turmoil, no less. Tuberville reiterated his refusal to budge despite the growing conflict in the Middle East, even though his blockade impacts those wishing to follow in his father’s footsteps of military duty to the country. His roadblock flies in the face of the service motivation he portrays for pursuing public office.

It seems Tuberville has bitten off more than he can chew with this crusade. By antagonizing his own party and risking national security, he may have gone too far. His colleagues made clear they expect cooperation, not unilateral obstructionism.

Going forward, Republican patience will be tested. If Tuberville maintains his rigid stance at such a delicate global moment, defying military leaders and experienced colleagues, his maverick tactics could seriously backfire.

Principled stands have limits if they undermine strategic priorities. With geopolitical tensions mounting and America’s armed forces feeling the hit for something they have no control over, cooler heads may prevail to find balanced solutions. But time will tell if Tuberville recognizes when a risk takes precedence over a rhetorical point.

His gamble on unchecked power could seriously damage not only military readiness, but Senate comity as well. As frustrations boil over, breaking a blockade may require abandoning politicking over our protection. For now, all eyes turn to next week’s session and whether cooperation can neutralize one senator’s high-stakes game of chicken.

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