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New details make Tuberville’s blockade appear even more foolish

In light of the latest data from the Pentagon, Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville's 2023 military blockade suddenly looks even more pointless.

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Sen. Tommy Tuberville last year became the first sitting senator in American history to launch a monthslong blockade against confirming U.S. military officials. The Alabama Republican, however, claimed to have a good reason.

In the wake of Roe v. Wade’s demise, the Pentagon created a travel-reimbursement policy for servicemembers who needed to travel for reproductive health care. Tuberville insisted that the policy was “illegal” (it was not), and further argued that the Defense Department was paying for abortions (which was also untrue).

It took 10 months, but the right-wing coach-turned-politician ultimately backed down and agreed to stop undermining his own country’s armed forces. But we’re still learning new details about the policy Tuberville opposed for reasons he struggled to explain. The Associated Press reported:

A controversial military policy that allows service members to be reimbursed for travel if they or a family member have to go out of state for reproductive health care — including abortions — was used just 12 times from June to December last year, the Pentagon said Tuesday. ... [The travel policy ended up costing] roughly $40,000, Pentagon deputy press secretary Sabrina Singh said Tuesday. The money covered lodging, meals and transportation for out-of-state travel to receive care.

The money did not, however, cover abortion care.

The data from the Defense Department doesn’t come as too big of a surprise. Politico reported in September that Tuberville was railing against the travel reimbursement policy, “but few actually use the program.” The report added, “Only a small number of service members have taken advantage of the year-old rule that offers paid leave and travel reimbursement to troops seeking abortions and other reproductive care.”

But now we have more specific figures that bring the story into greater focus: Alabama’s senior Republican senator spent nearly a year blocking several hundred qualified military nominees because of a policy he didn’t really understand, which a whopping 12 people took advantage of.

Reiterating a point we discussed in December, the GOP senator’s reputation on Capitol Hill wasn’t great headed into 2023, though it was far worse as the year came to an end. Indeed, it was in November when several Senate Republicans decided they’d seen enough of Tuberville’s blockade, and they publicly accused him of, among other things, being dishonest, damaging the military during international crises, assisting U.S. adversaries abroad, and relying on tactics that were “ridiculous” and “dumb.”

Or put another way, Tuberville didn’t just needlessly hurt the military, he also did lasting harm to his own credibility and stature, in exchange for nothing. In light of the latest data, the Alabaman’s efforts suddenly look even more pointless.

This post updates our related earlier coverage.

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