(WASHINGTON) — Former U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley became the first GOP presidential hopeful to criticize Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s, R-Ala., blockade of senior military nominations.
Haley said the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing personnel who travel for abortions — the source of Tuberville’s ire — is misguided, but she maintained that the Tuberville play is having adverse effects on the military.
“I appreciate what Tuberville’s trying to do. I do. Like it’s totally wrong that the Department of Defense is doing this. But have we gotten so low that this is how we have to go about stopping it?” she said on Hugh Hewitt’s radio program Tuesday.
“There’s got to be other ways to go about doing this,” the candidate told Hewitt.
Haley drew upon the fact that her husband deployed in June to Djibouti in support of Operation Enduring Freedom, Horn of Africa.
“For my husband who’s serving overseas, and for all those military men and women, the idea that this is what they’re looking back and seeing, and this is what they are dealing with on top of the stresses of keeping themselves safe and being away from their families, it’s wrong,” Haley said.
“They’re, you know, dangling these promotions out there and using them as fodder,” she added.
Haley’s position put her at odds with at least one other 2024 presidential hopeful. Introducing former President Donald Trump at a $250-per-ticket fundraiser for the Alabama Republican Party in Montgomery, Alabama, on Friday, Tuberville said Trump has had a “tough week” and urged attendees to “stand behind him.” Neither Trump nor Tuberville mentioned Tuberville’s maneuver in the Senate.
Haley’s fellow South Carolinian, Sen. Tim Scott, the only Senate colleague of Tuberville’s running for the nomination, has not offered a comment.
The public appearances from both Haley and Trump offer insight into how the candidates, who are vying to become commander-in-chief, would hypothetically handle blockades as they made the same military appointments to the same vacancies President Joe Biden is currently attempting to fill.
Democrats have long urged Senate Republicans to settle the matter internally. Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., called on Republicans to develop a “very targeted, temporary change in process” to begin moving military nominations.
“Maybe when we get back in September there will be some openness to creative solutions [because] Tuberville is not going to back down. He thinks he’s become a celebrity folk hero in the fringe right,” the Connecticut Democrat said.
Murphy said that despite initial optimism about clearing the blockade, he has since reached the conclusion that Tuberville “is prepared to burn the military down.”
“I think everybody’s been hoping that Sen. Tuberville would back down, and I think we have to come to the conclusion that that is not happening and that he is prepared to burn the military down,” Murphy told the Hill.
The Pentagon is scrambling to counter what Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin termed the “cascading effect” of “the unprecedented, across-the-board hold.” The blockade is “increasingly hindering the normal operations of this Department and undermining both our military readiness and our national security,” Austin said in a memo last week.
Austin recommended allowing lower-level officers to lead organizations ordinarily led by a four-star general or admiral in an acting capacity “in extraordinary cases.”
Phone calls between Tuberville and Austin on the matter have so far been fruitless.
As of July 26, Tuberville’s holds number 273 senior military nominations. Those include the highest-ranking military officers in the Marine Corps and Army. Next week, the top officer in the Navy will join the list, and at the end of September, the nominee to replace Gen. Mark Milley as chairman of the Joint Chiefs — the top military officer in the country — will face Senate scrutiny.
The Senate Armed Services Committee reports 650 officers will require Senate confirmation by the end of the year and 110 will be forced to perform two jobs simultaneously.
The Senate will return from August recess with renewed pressure to overcome the blockade, which will enter a ninth month in September.
ABC News’ Allison Pecorin and Luis Martinez contributed to this report.
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