From the Left



The Defense Bill is No Longer a No-Brainer as Speaker McCarthy Gives in to Far-Right Faction

Clarence Page, Tribune Content Agency on

Despite the rowdy episodes of fussing, feuding and fighting that we see erupt out of the Congress, matters as routine as the annual defense policy bill have tended to slide through without much opposition. Until this year.

In the past week, the traditional bipartisan support behind defense broke down into an unusually bitter debate in the House, where the National Defense Authorization Act narrowly passed 219 to 210 on Friday; a similar fight is expected in the Senate.

The deeply partisan bill that Republicans pushed through the House would limit abortion access, transgender care and diversity training for military personnel. That sets up a showdown in the Senate that jeopardizes the measure, along with defense measures that include a pay raise for troops and programs for dealing with a range of rising threats.

The bill faced a far-right faction in the House that forced Speaker Kevin McCarthy to reluctantly open up the legislation to controversial social policy provisions. Such provisions have little chance of surviving in the Democratic-controlled Senate, which is unlikely to reach a grand compromise — or any compromise — this fall.

A leading figurehead of the right’s resistance in the Senate who has made a name for himself in this clash is Alabama Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a former Auburn University football coach whose sports successes have made him something of a folk hero in his football-loving state.

Unfortunately, if anyone needs a reminder that a laudable career as a college football coach does not necessarily lead to genius in the Senate, Tuberville has proved downright eager to provide it.


He gave an early clue shortly after his election in November 2020, when he famously indicated that he thought the three branches of the United States government are “the House, the Senate and executive.” It didn’t take long for some folks who can get downright persnickety about such matters to point out that the three branches actually are the executive, the legislative (both House and Senate) and the judiciary. (Note to students: Pay attention in your government and civics classes.)

Among other gaffes for which Tuberville would become known, he misidentified the reason for World War II, stating his father fought to liberate Europe from “socialism.” (Students: It was fascism — not socialism — that drove the U.S. intervention in that war.)

But, as the world should know from the Jan. 6, 2021, assault on the U.S. Capitol, a lot of folks have a lot to learn about how our government works. That Capitol assault, among other evidence such as the 2008 FBI report “White Supremacist Recruitment of Military Personnel since 9/11,″ led Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to mandate anti-extremism training in the ranks.

Tuberville, in a Newsweek op-ed with Rep. Kevin Hern of Oklahoma, denounced that move as yet another example of President Joe Biden’s “woke social … agenda.”


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