Sen. Tommy Tuberville took to the Senate floor Monday to reiterate his commitment to maintaining his holds on various military promotions and defended himself from political attacks.
Tuberville began his remarks by highlighting a list that Chuck Schumer (D-NY), the Senate Majority Leader, sent out to his fellow Democrats that didn’t even list the resolution of the holds as a top legislative priority.
“Yesterday Senator Schumer sent the Democrat Caucus a long to-do list … Missing from that list was military nominations,” he said.
The senior senator from Alabama then addressed possibly the most high profile hold yet, one that directly affects the highest levels of the Marine Corps.
As a result of the hold, the Marines don’t have a Senate-confirmed commandant for the first time in more than a century. Gen. David Berger retired Monday without an official successor sworn in by the Senate. The position is held by Assistant Commandant Gen. Eric Smith.
“General Smith’s is one of the most important (appointments). I have a great deal of admiration for General Smith,” said Tuberville. “Earlier today, General Smith became the acting head of the Marine Corps. He is doing the same exact job for which he has been nominated. The only difference is that today he is an acting official.”
Tuberville also discussed how little effect the hold is having on Smith’s leadership.
“This has minimal effect on his ability to lead,” he said. “There may be a delay to his planning guidance. And he can’t yet move into the Commandant’s residence. But there is little doubt about General Smith’s ability to lead effectively — even now …”
He reiterated his faith in Smith and said if Senate Democrats disagreed with his assessment of the general, they should call for an official vote on the position.
“I believe that the Marine Corps is in good hands right now,” Tuberville said. “But if (Armed Services Committee) Chairman (Jack) Reed (D-R.I.) and the Democrats are so concerned, then let’s vote.”
“I agree this is an important nomination. But surely the Commandant of the Marine Corps is more important. So, if Democrats are so worried about General Smith being an acting official, then let’s vote.”
Tuberville’s holds began in March after Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin announced the formal implementation of an abortion policy to fund travel and paid time off for service members and their dependents seeking an abortion. The policy expands taxpayer-subsided abortion in the military beyond what is allowed under federal statute.
The senator has said believes the DoD, besides circumventing the role of Congress, is flouting the law, which narrowly restricts the use of taxpayer funds and DoD facilities being used to provide or facilitate abortions for service members.
“The law only allows the Department of Defense to facilitate and fund abortions in the cases of rape, incest, and the life of the mother,” Tuberville said in March.
Austen Shipley is a staff writer for Yellowhammer News.