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Tipsheet

Tommy Tuberville Continues Holding Up Defense Nominees Over DoD's 'Illegal' Funding of Abortion

AP Photo/Butch Dill

The Biden administration made news late last year for yet another abortion policy it was enacting, in this case as it pertained to a crisis of priorities with the Department of Defense (DoD). Rather than focus on military readiness, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin spoke of offering abortions to service members. As has been the case with many abortion policies under this administration, questions were raised about the legalities. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) is doing something about it though to put pressure on the administration for what he says is an "illegal" policy by continuing to hold up defense nominees. 

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Under that policy, service members receive paid time off as well as travel reimbursement for having an abortion, or if their dependents do. While federal tax dollars cannot fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, concerns remain with that time off and travel if a service member has to go to another state due to abortion restrictions in their own.

As Spencer highlighted while covering the policy last month, Sen. Tuberville tweeted out that "if Secretary Austin wants to change law, he should go through Congress," also referring to the policy as "an illegal expansion of DoD authority and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars." He also promised to "hold him accountable," and he has. 

"The Secretary of Defense is following through with his radical plan to facilitate thousands of abortions a year with taxpayer dollars," the senator told Fox News last month. "So, I will follow through with my plan to hold all DoD civilian, flag, and general officer nominations that come before the U.S. Senate."

As a March 23 press release from the senator's office explained, "Senator Tuberville’s hold forces the Senate to consider and vote on the nominations by regular order instead of approving them in batches by unanimous consent, which can be considerably faster. The nominations can still be approved by the Senate, but the Majority Leader must make additional time for them to be considered on the floor."

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Also on March 23, Tuberville made clear that he was making good on that promise while speaking on the Senate floor, while also calling out the DOD for becoming "an abortion travel agency."

"In December I warned the department that I would hold their nominees if they tried to force abortion on demand on our military. They did it anyway. The department knew what the consequences would be. This was their choice," the senator reminded. "I will continue to hold these nominees until the Department of Defense follows the law--or Congress changes the law. In the meantime, we should do our job and vote." 

Sen. Tuberville also made similar remarks from the Senate floor earlier this month. On March 8, he revealed that "other than a couple of calls to my staff to ask whether I was serious, the DoD leadership has yet to call me directly and justify this action. In fact, they have not explained this decision to Congress, despite multiple letters--more than a dozen--from my colleagues on the Armed Services Committee." Such was the day that Tuberville followed through on his promise. 

One such letter in question was sent by Sen. Tuberville on July 15, 2022. That letter went unanswered, according to that  March 23 press release from the senator's office, as did a letter sent on November 28, 2022. 

Tuberville's move to stand firm on his stance in favor of following the law managed to sharp back-and-forth between him and Sen. Michael Bennet (D-CO). A more recent article from Fox News explained how Tuberville's remarks last Thursday came when he objected to an attempt by Bennet to force a vote on nominees:

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Tuberville reacted to Bennet claiming his holding of Biden's defense nominees was "unprecedented" by pointing to a January report from Defense News in which the latter threatened his own objections to Biden's nominees over Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin's"refusal" to meet with him concerning the administration's decision to move the U.S. Space Command from Colorado to Alabama. Tuberville also referenced a previous hold by Sen. Tammy Duckworth, D-Ill., of over 1,000 military promotions.

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Bennet avoided directly responding to the concerns posed by Tuberville over the Pentagon's policy to provide funding for abortion as it relates to federal law. Appearing frustrated, he instead railed against abortion restrictions, as well as the Supreme Courtoverturning of Roe v. Wade, and suggested abortion restrictions were contributing to the military's recruitment and readiness problems.

This isn't the first time the two senators have clashed over the issue. Earlier this month, Tuberville's objection to the nominations sparked a similar heated debate between the two.

Sen. Bennet took on the stance of a pro-abortion DOD and woke military, claiming that overturning Roe v. Wade, as the U.S. Supreme Court did last June with the Dobbs v. Jackson case, would affect military recruitment. 

"It is hard for me to see how American women that have had access for 50 years to fundamental constitutional right have now had it stripped about by the Supreme Court of the United States are going to enlist if they have no way to know whether or not they’re going to have access to reproductive care," Bennet claimed, who had also lamented how the Dobbs decision "created a real threat to our national security and to our readiness."

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Tuberville argues that this is hardly an issue, as the DoD has averaged fewer than 20 abortions each year, as explained by Tuberville's office, which was discussed during a DoD briefing in December. When it comes to force readiness, the senator has repeatedly reached out to the DoD to justify these claims that abortion access has negative implications. The department has yet to provide any such data, though. 

It's also worth noting that Bennet not only holds a pro-abortion stance, but that his state of Colorado is one of just a handful states which allows for unlimited abortions for any reason up until birth without legal limit. Such states are more in line with human rights abusers like China and North Korea than the rest of the world. 

As Madeline covered last April, Gov. Jared Polis (D-CO) signed legislation enshrining such a radical abortion policy into the state constitution. 

There may be further bad blood between Sens. Bennet and Tuberville and their two states when it comes to what ought to be a separate issue. The U.S. Space Command is currently in Colorado, but the Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama was selected at the end of the Trump administration to be the permanent home. 

The Colorado delegation has held up that move, with accusations and tie-ins about abortion and military readiness again coming up. 

In a statement from March 24, Sen. Tuberville highlighted how it is not merely opinion that Huntsville is the fitting choice. "The U.S. Air Force’s thorough selection process and decision to put SPACECOM headquarters in Alabama was based on evidence of what’s best for the military and the country. The Air Force selected Redstone Arsenal in Huntsville, Alabama over 65 other locations, including Colorado. Members of Congress from Colorado requested two additional studies when they didn’t get their way," he said. "Both of those studies confirmed that Huntsville was the number one location for SPACECOM--based on things like workforce, existing infrastructure, education, and cost of living. Colorado did not make the top three. The best place for Space Command is in Huntsville. This is not my opinion, this is fact."

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The Washington Post also published a letter to the editor earlier on Monday from Sen. Tuberville arguing for moving the headquarters to Huntsville. 

The March 8 and March 23 press releases from Tuberville's office warned that under this policy, "the number of abortions subsidized by taxpayers through the DoD could increase to 4,100 annually--205 times the number of abortions performed last year."

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