Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., a member of the Armed Services Committee, on Sunday decried Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade of hundreds of military nominations as a political move that will jeopardize the U.S.' "ability to lead the free world."
Tuberville, an Alabama Republican who is a member of the Armed Services Committee, has blocked hundreds of military appointments, citing his objection to a Defense Department policy that provides paid time off and reimburses travel costs for service members and dependents seeking abortions. President Joe Biden recently denounced the blockade as a “totally irresponsible move."
“I’m going to just say what President Biden has said: It is bizarre for Sen. Tuberville to say that he’s not jeopardizing national security when he injects politics into the defense process,” Duckworth said in an interview on NBC News' “Meet the Press.”
“And frankly, this is not the time to do it,” she said. “For him to really jeopardize our national security by injecting politics and preventing our military leaders to be able to take their positions and do their jobs is really, you know, it’s beyond distressing.”
Duckworth added: “Right now, Sen. Tuberville is jeopardizing our nation’s ability to lead the free world at a time when there’s a war in Europe because he wants to inject politics into this.”
Biden said he would be willing to talk to Tuberville if he believes "there’s any possibility of him changing his ridiculous position.” The president has also urged Republicans to "stand up and do something about it."
In a memo first obtained addressed to "Interested parties" by NBC News last week, the White house ramped up pressure on the GOP, painting the party as enablers of Tuberville's effort and accusing it of mounting “barely a word of protest.”
“Right now, a Republican Senator is choosing to erode military readiness and abuse military families in the pursuit of an unrelated and extreme anti-freedom agenda — with barely a sound from his GOP colleagues,” White House communications adviser Andrew Bates wrote in the memo.
The blockade is “exploiting service members as pawns,” hurting military readiness and risking a “brain-drain” from the Defense Department," he added. “He’s even subjecting the families who serve with members to excruciating uncertainty, like not knowing where children will go to school or where spouses can work.”
Tuberville has remained unmoved by the blowback from Democrats, telling NBC News that he won’t back down until the Pentagon promises to rescind its policy of covering the travel costs for service members who leave their states to get abortions.
“If I’d have been president, I’d call me a long time ago,” Tuberville said. “I understand we’ve got a lot of problems in this country. We got a lot of foreign problems, and, and he got — that’s a hard job. I can’t imagine doing that. So, you know, he got pretty, pretty fired up about me and on foreign soil. I wish he hadn’t done that.”
Even some congressional Republicans have objected to Tuberville’s blockade, despite agreeing with his opposition to the Defense Department’s policy on abortion access.
Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan, a Republican member of the Armed Services Committee, defended his GOP colleague on “Meet the Press" Sunday.
“Every senator has the right to place holds on nominees on an issue of policy importance,” he said. “I certainly have done this myself. I’m here in Alaska right now. I had a hold a couple years ago on the secretary of the Army, the chief of staff of the Army to get them to change the position when they were going to remove a brigade combat team — Airborne Brigade Combat Team from Alaska.”
Sullivan expressed his belief that the impasse on military nominations needs to be resolved through compromise.
“Every single one of these kind of holds 99% of them get resolved through compromise,” he said. “And what needs to happen, the secretary of defense, Sen. Tuberville, [Senate Majority Leader] Chuck Schumer, need to sit down and have that.”