A failed college football coach has Senate Republicans backed into a corner because they’re scared of far-right voters on abortion, the issue that has lost them every significant election since the Dobbs decision was handed down last year.
Not even a single Republican has had the stones to stand up to Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, who quit on three different college football jobs – Auburn, Texas Tech and Cincinnati – before somehow failin his way up into getting elected to the U.S. Senate in 2020.
Democrats like referring to Tuberville as “Coach,” to emphasize the utter lack of seriousness that he brings to the job of being a United States senator.
Whatever usefulness Tuberville has decided he has comes on abortion – he has to have a staffer whispering in his ear on that being important to Alabama voters; there’s no way this is something that a guy whose biggest issue for 30 years was how many guys to rush on third downs came up with on his own.
Coach has been holding up nominations because he doesn’t like a Department of Defense policy enacted post-Dobbs that pays the travel expenses of military servicemembers who need to go out of state to be able to have an abortion.
The DOD policy was put in place in response to the moves of several mostly Southern states to restrict abortion access.
Tuberville has been using the arcane Senate rule on votes for military promotions as his wedge, holding up what has for generations been a routine practice – voting on promotions in batches – by insisting on up-or-down votes one-by-one.
The issue there is best explained by U.S. Sen. Tim Kaine, D-Va.
“The way that Sen. Tuberville was slowing this down as he’s insisting, and it’s 363 now, and it’s going to be 650 by year end, that they would all have to be taken up and voted on individually, with 30 hours of debate on each. We wouldn’t be able to do any work. We couldn’t do budget, we couldn’t do confirmation of judges or anything if he insisted upon that,” Kaine told reporters on a conference call on Thursday.
Kaine has been out front with criticism of Tuberville – and his Senate Republican enablers.
Because there’s an easy solution to what Tuberville is doing – simply amend the rule that Coach is playing to his advantage.
The Senate Rules Committee approved on Tuesday an amended rule that would remove the unanimous consent requirement that Tuberville is exploiting, allowing for a batch of nominations to go to the floor for a single up-or-down vote, with debate on the batch of nominees if a member were to request that.
The committee moved the rule change forward, but only the 51 Democrats in the Senate would support bringing the motion to the floor for a vote.
And if you’re thinking, Hey, 51 is a majority in a body with 100 members, why can’t 51 senators just pass a rule change, well, I’m dragging you into the perimeter of wisdom as to how the United States Senate makes no sense.
You need 60 senators to get something like this to the floor for a vote, so nine Republicans would have to sign on, and there aren’t nine Senate Republicans willing to stand up to the one-third of Americans who want abortion banned – because that third of Americans is the bulk of their political base.
You’d think that the GOP base would also want to make sure the military isn’t weakened by having top leadership jobs left unfilled – Republicans, and their voters, at least pretend to care about national security as being a big issue.
“I wish we could resolve this. I’m on the floor here more out of sadness and frustration than anger. I really do wish with my colleague Sen. Tuberville we can find a way forward on this fast, to turn to the even bigger readiness problem,” Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan said in remarks on the Senate floor in the early hours on Thursday.
Another guy you might have heard of, Lindsey Graham, Republican senator from South Carolina, did his best at talking tough in the general direction of Coach.
“I promise you this. This will be the last holiday this happens. If it takes me to vote to break loose these folks, I will,” Graham said, signaling tepid support for the rules change – though it could have been that he just wanted to get out of D.C. for the Thanksgiving recess.
News flash: the Senate didn’t get it done before the recess.
“My hope is that by the time we come back, I hope, and those first few days back, we’ll get this on the floor, and then let’s let people vote, not party, but conscience,” Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., told reporters in a conference call on Thursday.
“The very people who say they want to support our military, well, you can do that by making sure that people who have earned the right to get promoted don’t get played as political pawns. And that’s what’s happening right now by one senator on a totally unrelated issue,” Warner said.