Tommy Tuberville Giving Hill Republicans a Lesson in How to Win the Budget Battle Against the Swamp

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Pay attention, Senate and House Republicans, because Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) is conducting a seminar on how to gain major reforms that are bitterly opposed on a “bipartisan” basis by The Swamp.


On February 17, the formerly obscure freshman Republican senator and past Auburn University football coach announced that he was placing holds on hundreds of military promotions and appointments.

Tuberville vowed not to back off his holds until President Joe Biden reverses his policy that the Department of Defense (DOD) would pay for certain expenses incurred by members of the military who must travel to a different state from where they are based to obtain abortions.

The Biden policy is an explicit violation of the long-standing Hyde Amendment, which was adopted with bipartisan support decades ago and which remains in force now, barring federal tax dollars from being used to pay for abortions. Tuberville insisted he would not change his position until Biden complies with the law.

Nobody in the mainstream media paid much attention at the outset, likely thinking Tuberville was merely grandstanding to make a messaging point and that, as Republicans so often do, he would back off when the rhetorical and political heat started being applied.

But then came April when Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) sought to gain unanimous consent confirmation of a bunch of military promotions and appointments. Under the Senate’s unanimous consent rule, the promotions would be considered approved without a record vote unless one senator objected. Eyebrows were raised when Tuberville, true to his word, objected.

The heat started being seriously ratcheted up by The Swamp in May when Biden announced his nomination of Air Force Gen. C.W. Brown, Jr. to succeed Gen. Mark Milley as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Again, Tuberville was true to his word in announcing that his hold applied to the Brown nomination. The list of appointments and promotions on hold was now stretching out towards the 200 mark.


Adam Hodge, spokesman for the Biden White House’s National Security Council, issued an angry statement accusing Tuberville of political grand-standing and endangering national security with his hold.

“Tuberville is threatening our national security with his political gamesmanship and risking our military readiness by depriving our armed forces of leadership at a critical time … Senators shouldn’t play politics with our military its readiness or our military families.”

In fact, the guy playing politics was Biden with his decision to defy the Hyde Amendment, the law that protected government neutrality on the most politically divisive issue in America, and the further reality was and remains that Tuberville’s hold doesn’t prevent the Senate from moving forward by holding on-the-record votes on whether to approve specific nominations.

Doing that takes longer, to be sure, but the real problem for Senate leaders is that such votes force every senator to go on record one way or the other on Biden’s woke remodeling of the U.S. military.

To this day and to the continued astonishment of The Swamp, Tuberville is still standing his ground, despite the growing intensity and vindictiveness of his critics, including being accused by the three military branch secretaries of aiding America’s international adversaries.

No one should be surprised, however, because back in March when Senate Republicans like Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine) were bashing him, Tuberville made his determination to stand his ground crystal clear during a Senate hearing.


“Over the past 40 years, I don’t recall one military person ever complaining that we weren’t performing enough abortions … As long as I have a voice in this body, Congress will write the laws, not the Secretary of Defense, not the Joint Chiefs.”

Tuberville hasn’t yet achieved his goal, but nobody in the nation’s capital now doubts that the Alabama Republican must be dealt with on his own terms. He remains, to all appearances, unfazed by the personal attacks aimed his way.

In other words, The Swamp’s leaders in both parties must soon make a decision, either agree to negotiate changes in the contested policy that Tuberville accepts or tie the Senate in confirmation molasses for months in order to get around him. Or tell DOD nobody gets promoted until further notice. The U.S. military will not grind to a halt because a bunch of one-stars don’t get star number two.

One hopes that Speaker of the House Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) and the nervous Republican moderates recognize and heed the lesson Tuberville is demonstrating: The sole way to force The Swamp to accept major reforms on federal budget, debt, and spending is to find a strong leverage point — spending bills must originate in the House which Republicans control —  clearly demand such reforms while defending them as essential to saving the country. Then stand strong.

Yes, doing so will likely result in a government “shutdown” that The Swamp will portray as catastrophic. But we’ve all seen the Washington Monument strategy before, and the longer it goes on this time around, the clearer will be the hollowness of such claims.


It will be crucially important that you continually state your willingness to engage in serious negotiations, even as you insist The Swamp show good faith by doing the same thing, beginning with its leadership putting some serious compromises on the table for discussion.

That’s the point of negotiating compromises — nobody gets everything they demand, but everybody must get some of what they demand. The only way that happens, though, is when both sides realize that’s the only way out of an impasse. And for that realization to dawn, there must be no doubt about your intentions.

Tuberville knows.


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