Tommy Tuberville has since February weaponised a rarely used parliamentary procedure known as the Senate hold to prevent military promotions.
The former football coach has received widespread condemnation from military leaders and former defence officials over the highly politicised obstructionism but Republicans have until now been largely silent on the blockade.
After months holding up hundreds of promotions Republican senators finally snapped at Tuberville this week. Alaska Senator Dan Sullivan spoke on the senate floor on Wednesday, describing Tuberville’s blockade as a “national security suicide mission”.
The Alabama senator was condemned by a coalition of Republican colleagues including senators Mitt Romney, Lindsay Graham, Joni Ernst and Todd Young.
Tuberville caused further uproar on Thursday when it was reported an aide to the Alabama senator had threatened his colleagues with primary challenges if they started to oppose his months long hold.
While he denied any involvement in making the threat, Tuberville had on Wednesday warned Republicans it would be “suicide” for them to support a rules change that would end the blockade.
It was reported a Marine commandant had suffered a heart attack this week after taking on further responsibilities because the hold had left a key position unfilled. Tuberville denied any responsibility for the commandant’s hospitalisation and likened the situation to his football career.
“This guy’s going to work 18, 20 hours a day no matter what. That’s what we do. You know, I did that for years because you’ve got to get the job done,” Tuberville told reporters. The life and death decisions resting upon military leaders are not remotely the same as the calls made by college football coaches.
Despite the unpopularity of the hold among voters in his own state of Alabama and the growing unease among his Republican colleagues, Tuberville is digging in his heels.
It was revealed in an August poll that 58 percent of Alabama voters thought Tuberville had made his point with the blockade and should allow promotions to move forward. It was also clear that most viewed the hold as a risk to national security.
With the hold on military promotions now in its tenth month, Republicans are only now waking up to the lunacy of the blockade.