Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., escalated his ongoing feud with President Biden following a decision not to move the U.S. Space Command headquarters to Alabama.
The Pentagon announced Monday that Biden had decided not to relocate the headquarters from Colorado Springs to Huntsville, Ala., calling the decision “an objective and deliberate process informed by data and analysis.” The Associated Press reported that Biden’s decision was made to avoid a disruption in readiness in the space race against China.
Tuberville was among the Alabama officials who condemned the move, calling it a “disastrous mistake” and claiming that Biden was playing politics by picking Colorado, which voted for the president by 14% in 2020, over Alabama, which he lost by 25%. It’s the latest conflict in a months-long saga that critics of Tuberville say is affecting military readiness.
Tuberville's battle with the Pentagon
For months, Tuberville — a former college football coach first elected in 2020 — has blocked military promotions because of the Pentagon’s decision to pay for the travel of service members if they need to leave the state in which they’re stationed to receive reproductive care, including abortions. He opposes the policy, although the military pays only for the travel, not for the procedure itself.
As a result of the hold, the Marine Corps is without a Senate-confirmed top commander for the first time in over a century. More than 250 promotions have been held up, and the Army and Navy are set to join the Marines with having no top officer, with their leaders set to retire later this month and no replacements confirmed.
Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, told Politico that “everybody is asking me about this” back home because it’s the time of year when military personnel stationed in her state generally get ready to move to new assignments.
“We see the impact here because it's very visible to us,” Murkowski said. “There’s one person who knows how to address this.”
In May, seven former defense secretaries, including two who served under former President Donald Trump, wrote to the Senate leadership urging them to act on the blockaded nominees because Tuberville’s action was “harming military readiness and risks damaging U.S. national security.”
Support and condemnation for Tuberville
The senator told Politico he isn’t facing any heat back home in a state where abortion is unpopular: “I have huge support. If I'd have gotten hammered … by 60%-70% of people from my state, veterans, I mean, then you’ve got to start thinking about: ‘Am I doing the right thing?’”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, who is trying to rebound after a difficult start to his 2024 presidential bid, said Monday evening that he supported Tuberville’s move, saying he believed the Pentagon was “violating the law.”
“I think it plays into a larger problem that we’ve seen in the military,” DeSantis told Fox News. “You have a lot of civilians forcing them to engage in political and culture issues that are detracting from [the] mission. This is one of them, but [also] the pronouns and the drag queens and all those other things. We need to get the military back on focusing on mission first.”
Tuberville, who made headlines earlier this year for his continued insistence that white nationalists are not racist before finally conceding they are, has become a favorite target of Biden's. The president addressed the actions of “the senator from Alabama” without mentioning Tuberville by name during a speech at a civil rights symposium last week.
“This partisan freeze is already harming military readiness, security, leadership and troop morale; freezing pay; freezing people in place,” Biden said. “Military families who have already sacrificed so much, unsure of where and when they change stations, unable to get housing or start their kids in the new school because they’re not there yet. Military spouses forced to take critical career decisions, not knowing where or if they can apply for a new job.”
With the Senate in recess, it’s likely the number of military promotions that need approval will continue to stack up. While the Senate could take up each individual vote on its own, Democrats have decided it’s on Republicans to get Tuberville to end his hold and address the nominations as a group. Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, considered pushing a single vote to fill the vacant Marine commandant position, but was talked out of it by GOP leadership.
Democrats have been eager to underline Tuberville’s targeting of the military because of abortion, an issue that has hurt Republicans in numerous swing races since the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn Roe v. Wade in June 2022. A recent New York Times/Siena poll found that even 37% of Republicans thought abortion should be always or mostly legal.
As far as the Space Command headquarters is concerned, officials from Alabama say that despite Biden’s decision, they aren’t giving up.
In his statement condemning the president’s decision, Tuberville said, “This is absolutely not over,” noting his support for an investigation into the matter by House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala. Rogers called it a “deliberate taxpayer-funded manipulation of the selection process,” adding, “It’s clear that far-left politics, not national security, was the driving force behind this decision.”