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Tommy Tuberville

The lasting wounds from Senate Republicans’ Tuberville mess

Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) military promotions blockade may be over, but the bad blood from the standoff will reverberate among Senate Republicans for a long time to come.

The Alabama Republican’s 10-month-long effort ended Tuesday with nothing to show for it. Tuberville initially used the nomination blockade as leverage to push the Pentagon to scrap its controversial abortion leave policy.

The issue roiled the Senate GOP Conference in recent months as it became clear that Tuberville wasn’t going to win. Still, Tuberville kept at it — winning fans on the right in the process — until the situation became unbearable for GOP defense hawks. They all but said they’d vote for a Democratic proposal to quash the blockade if Tuberville didn’t end it.

Tuberville told us he has “zero” regrets. But one of his detractors says she wishes her party tried to head off the saga sooner.

“If we had started much sooner, maybe working with the House on a lawsuit, maybe we could have avoided some of this rather than focusing on holding innocent men and women,” said Sen. Joni Ernst (R-Iowa), a defense hawk who co-led the charge against Tuberville’s blockade.

Led by Ernst and Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-Alaska), a group of Republican veterans eventually said enough was enough, taking to the Senate floor to demand that Tuberville end the blockade immediately.

Tuberville’s allies in this fight — GOP senators like Mike Lee of Utah and Roger Marshall of Kansas — pushed back. Conservative groups including Heritage piled on. Eventually, it became a near-daily discussion at Senate GOP lunches sometimes devolving into arguments between Tuberville’s allies and antagonists, as we’ve reported.

Here’s how Ernst described the pushback she got from fellow conservatives:

In the end, the Pentagon’s abortion policy is still in place — a fact that Tuberville’s detractors are emphasizing.

“This guy upended the lives of 400 of our heroes for almost a year — and for what?” a GOP senator, who requested anonymity, lamented.

The standoff prompted Sen. Katie Britt (R-Ala.), who has so far shunned the spotlight, to serve as an intermediary between Tuberville, his critics and members of GOP leadership, according to sources familiar with her role. Britt, seen as a rising star in the Senate, made clear she wanted to show support for her fellow Alabamian while also working to resolve the impasse.

— Andrew Desiderio

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