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Retried two-star Marine Corps Major General Arnold Punaro called Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) a “coward” during an interview with Politico in which he discussed Tuberville’s blockade against approving military promotions.
Tuberville, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has stalled more than 270 military promotions over his opposition to the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members, veterans, and dependents for travel expenses related to abortion and reproductive health care.
“I have a huge problem with what Sen. Tuberville is doing. He’s a coward, in my book. He won’t even bring an amendment to the floor and get it voted on to change the [abortion] policy,” Punaro, who is also a former staff director of the Armed Services Committee, told Politico.
The Marines lack a commanding officer for the first time in over 150 years because of Tuberville’s blockade, which Punaro described as a “pathetic” push to prioritize fundraising over national security.
“It is having an impact,” he added. “And unfortunately, the only way you can ever prove it to somebody like Sen. Tuberville — who’s never served […] you’re not going to really be able to prove it to anybody until young Marines and young soldiers die in combat because they’re not as well led.”
Defense Department leadership has attempted to speak directly with Tuberville and bring an end to the freeze. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke to the senator earlier this month -– to no avail — and publicly stated that his actions were “a national security issue. It’s a readiness issue. And we shouldn’t kid ourselves.”
On Thursday, President Joe Biden blasted Tuberville’s treatment of military promotions as hypocritical, and self-serving.
“The Republican Party used to always support the military, but today they’re undermining the military. The senior senator from Alabama, who claims to support our troops, is now blocking more than 300 military operations with his extreme political agenda,” Biden remarked while speaking at the National Archives.
“I think it’s outrageous,” Biden added. “It’s time for the Senate to confirm the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the next commandant of the Marine Corps. It’s time for service members to receive the pay and promotions they’ve earned and deserved. It’s time for the senator from Alabama to let these generals and admirals fully serve their country and service members care for themselves and their families.”
Yet Tuberville remains largely unmoved. On Tuesday, the senator argued that if the DOD won’t change its health care policy then the Armed Services Committee should individually debate and approve each promotion, a process which would take months.
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