GOP Senator Tommy Tuberville‘s hold on military promotions in a clash over abortion policy is reportedly undermining the U.S.’s ability to assist Israel after a surprise attack by Hamas fighters left more than 1,000 people dead and thousands wounded on both sides.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Sunday that he has directed the USS Gerald R. Ford Carrier Strike Group to sail to the Eastern Mediterranean. “In addition, the United States government will be rapidly providing the Israel Defense Forces with additional equipment and resources, including munitions,” Austin said. “The first security assistance will begin moving today and arriving in the coming days.”
The move “underscores the United States’ ironclad support for the Israel Defense Forces and the Israeli people,” Austin added.
But the U.S. Navy in the region lacks a chief of naval operations because of Tuberville’s blockade, according to Don Moynihan, a professor of public policy at Georgetown University. That “seems like something that might be useful to have with a war breaking out in the Middle East,” he wrote in a Substack post.
Tuberville, an Alabama Republican, has said he will not lift a hold on military nominations until the Pentagon rescinds its policy of paying for travel when a service member goes out of state to get an abortion or other reproductive care. The policy was put in place last year after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade, ending the constitutional right to an abortion.
Just days before the Hamas attack, according to Moynihan’s Substack post, GOP Senator Josh Hawley of Missouri said he would block civilian Army promotions because of concerns about housing conditions on one military base.
Paul has put a blanket hold on all State Department nominees, citing the Biden administration’s refusal to provide him with documents related to the origin of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“It would be hyperbole to suggest that these actions, by themselves, had anything to do with the attack, or that they have a dramatic effect on the outcome,” Moynihan wrote on Substack.
“But they do hamper the ability of the US government to respond at this time. And they are all directly the result of the cavalier approach the Republican Party has shown to its job of governing,” he said.
Newsweek has contacted Tuberville and the Department of Defense for comment via email.
Last month, the secretaries of the Navy, Air Force and Army warned in a Washington Post op-ed that Tuberville’s efforts were “dangerous” and “putting our national security at risk.”
Three military branches—the Army, Navy and Marine Corps—have no Senate-confirmed chiefs in place, the secretaries noted in the piece. “Instead, these jobs—and dozens of others across the force—are being performed by acting officials without the full range of legal authorities necessary to make the decisions that will sustain the United States’ military edge.”
Moynihan told Newsweek that “beyond the uniformed military appointments, these blockades just make it difficult to get anyone to agree to serve in appointment positions.”
He said: “It is already an arduous process, which can take months, and involve very intensive background checks. For many people who might like to serve, why bother putting yourself through the process if the Senate is not even agreeing to review candidates?”
On X, Moynihan said that the “inability of the GOP to govern also may complicate whatever new legislation might be needed to respond in coming days.”
The House remains without a speaker after the historic removal of Kevin McCarthy last week. House Republicans are trying to choose a new leader, which could be a prolonged process.
Update 10/9/23, 10:23 a.m. ET: This story has been updated to include comments from Don Moynihan.