GOP Fortress leaves Marines without a confirmed leader for the first time in 164 years


Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.)’s unprecedented influence over military promotions has left the Marine Corps without a confirmed leader for the first time in 164 years, prompting outrage from Democrats who say his actions endanger them National security.

Marine Corps Commander General David Berger officially retired Monday, leaving Deputy Commander-General Eric Smith as acting commander and head of the military department pending confirmation in the Senate.

Democrats tried Monday to confirm Smith through a unanimous consent request, but Tuberville blocked the move in protest at a new Pentagon policy that provides paid time off and reimbursement of travel expenses for service members who cross state lines to have an abortion. The directive was issued after the Supreme Court overturned federal abortion law and Roe v. Wade had picked up.

Alabama Republican influence extends to over 250 Pentagon generals and flag officers. To approve each promotion, Democrats would have to schedule multiple Senate votes, which would eat up valuable speaking time. It would likely take months to process them all — time the Senate simply doesn’t have if it is to pass budget legislation and avoid a government shutdown this year.

“If the Democrats are that concerned about General Smith in an incumbent position, then let’s vote,” Tuberville said Monday after blocking the motion, making it clear he would support Smith if his confirmation were put to a vote .

Sen. Jack Reed (DR.I.), the chair of the Senate Armed Services Committee, accused Tuberville of using military officers and their families awaiting promotions as “pawns” because Senate uncertainty left them in limbo.

“Their families cannot move into their new homes. Your children cannot prepare for a new school. Their spouses cannot accept new jobs. “This isn’t a game — these are real lives turned upside down,” Reed said.

John Kirby, a White House national security spokesman, also criticized Tuberville for withholding Smith’s confirmation Tuesday.

“When you’re an actor, while you can do many of the things that a confirmed person can do, some of your authority is limited,” Kirby said in an interview with MSNBC. “Some of your ability to maneuver money and program things is hampered by the fact that you are not Senate confirmed.”

Republicans and Democrats have suggested alternative ways for Tuberville to state his position on the issue, including a vote on an annual defense law amendment, but he says he will only lift the lockdowns on two conditions: The policy is formalized in a single plenary vote or dropped entirely.

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters last month that he does not support using military promotions as leverage. Most of Tuberville’s GOP peers stand by his side, however, and he told reporters he felt no pressure from leadership to change course.

Democrats could seek to change Senate rules to enforce military promotions over Tuberville’s rule — which Republicans did several times when they were in the majority — but that would require 50 votes.

“As of this writing, there’s no consensus on that for any reason,” Senator Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the No. 3 Senate Democrat, told HuffPost.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) hinted Monday that Democrats are enjoying the battle for military promotions with Tuberville, who has emerged as an opponent for Democratic senators and President Joe Biden, who recently denounced him for promoting infrastructure funding, voted against.

“They like that attitude,” Cornyn said, noting that Democrats could schedule a vote on any promotion.

But Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), who also sits on the Armed Services Committee, pointed the finger at Tuberville’s GOP peers for not doing more to approve the promotions.

“You can’t turn that into ‘This is a problem the Democrats can solve,'” Warren said. “Under current Senate rules, Senator Tuberville can continue to block these candidates indefinitely. Here the battle line must be drawn. It’s about whether one member can endanger our entire national security. Senator Tuberville is doing it, and right now he’s doing it with the tacit approval of his fellow Republicans.”

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