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Tipsheet

There's Something Suspicious About Article Portraying GOP in Disarray Over Abortion Funding, DoD Nominees

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Townhall has been covering at length Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) holding up defense nominees in reaction to the Pentagon's abortion policy. The policy allows service members receive paid time off as well as travel reimbursement for having an abortion, or if their dependents do. The mainstream media is looking to cast doubt, including with pieces like "GOP senators grow weary of Tuberville abortion stalemate on defense nominees" from The Hill.

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The piece insinuates that Tuberville keeping his word is a bad thing:

Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) prolonged hold on the promotions of Pentagon officials is rattling fellow Republicans, who worry the potential cost to national security is starting to outweigh whatever political points Tuberville may be scoring against the Biden administration.  

...

Some Republicans thought Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) might intervene in the standoff upon his return to the Senate, but he hasn’t shown any inclination to do so.

Senators usually only put blanket holds on nominees to make a point and then withdraw them after a short while. But Tuberville has frozen promotions at the Pentagon for weeks, and some Republicans worry he is injecting politics into promotions of nonpolitical career military officials.

Of the three Republican senators mentioned with concerns, one is mentioned by name, Susan Collins of Maine, ranking member on the Senate's Defense Appropriations Subcommittee. "I would prefer that Sen. Tuberville focus his holds on political appointees. They’re the ones who make the policy. I think that would be an equally effective and better approach, but obviously, the approach he chooses is up to him," she said.

She's also a pro-choice Republican and voted against Tuberville's resolution earlier this month to prevent the Department of Veterans Affairs from providing abortions at their facilities. It failed 48-51.

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The other two senators are conveniently not named. As one senator is quoted:

“Our country faces significant challenges, we have a significant adversary that is threatening our country’s national security and well-being, and we need a full team in place,” the lawmaker said. “The circumstances we find ourselves in is a real threat to the future of our country. It’s not a time for us to be divided; it’s also not a time to not have all of our players on the field.” 

The senator argued that promoting officers to new positions is critical to the nation’s defense because “people are a huge component of how well we perform at anything, certainly in national security.”  

Another senator quoted admits that he or she doesn't know what to do:

A second Republican senator complained that Tuberville doesn’t appear to have an exit strategy because the Biden administration doesn’t appear inclined to reverse the Pentagon’s abortion policy, and Democrats think the Alabama senator will have to capitulate at some point and allow the promotions to go through.  

“He’s taken a hostage that you can’t shoot,” the senator said of Tuberville’s hold.  

Asked what can be done to persuade Tuberville to release his hold, the GOP lawmaker said: “I do not know, but I’m told he’s very comfortable with where he’s at.”  

The report does include quotes from other members, who express hope that Democrats will work with Tuberville so that he can get the vote that he is asking for, which would bar the Department of Defense from spending taxpayer funds for members to have abortions. They're named and include Sens. Todd Young (R-IN) and Lindsey Graham (R-SC). 

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Tuberville is quoted as telling The Hill that he does have conditions where he'll relent: 

While federal tax dollars cannot fund abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or life of the mother, concerns remain with time off and travel if a service member has to go to another state due to abortion restrictions in their own.

Tuberville's concerns is not only with taxpayers funds towards abortions, but with the rule of law. The senator's office has explained that the relevant law in question, and the department's authority when it comes to abortions, refers to 10 U.S.C. 1093, and highlights that the Pentagon's policy is illegal

There is support for Tuberville, and has been there for some time. In a statement for Townhall from almost a month ago, Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS) communicated as much. 

"The Biden Administration is exploiting the United States military to pursue their radical abortion agenda. Republicans must hold the line. At a time when our military is struggling to fill its ranks and replenish weapons stockpiles, our national security resources and American tax dollars should not be used to pay for service members and their dependents to travel to get abortions," Marshall had said, adding that "Senator Tuberville is standing up for what is right, and I am proud to support him in his efforts against this illegal policy."

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A senior Senate Republican staffer also spoke to Townhall about more of that support support. "Senator Tuberville is fighting for what Republican senators say they believe in—life. He has the support of a lot of them. And probably more importantly he has the support of the base, which has seen Republicans nationally begin to shy away from abortion," the staffer offered. 

The Thursday report from The Hill follows a report highlighting how Tuberville and Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT) objected to Sen. Elizabeth Warren's (D-MA) move on Tuesday to allow 184 military promotions to go forward. 

As highlighted in a press release of her remarks attacking Tuberville, Warren claimed that Tuberville was engaging in "extortion" and that "these holds are depriving families of pay raises they earned," adding "we're talking about gas and grocery money for families." 

Not only are no service members making salaries where this would be the kind of concern Warren is making it out to be, but, as Tuberville's office explains, once officers are promoted, they will receive their pay raise backdated to the date of their being selected to higher rank. The figures are also publicly available at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s website.

Warren's concerns about how "These holds pose a grave threat to our national security and military readiness. They actively hurt our ability to respond quickly to threats around the world," are rebutted by a response that a top combatant commander gave to Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI), who has also gone after Tuberville, during the April 20 Senate Armed Services Committee hearing. 

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Because military leaders remain in their posts until they are released, "operationally" these holds have "no impact," the commander explained. 

Warren's press release also emphasizes how Tuberville is acting as "one senator" who is "personally" doing what she disagrees with, evidently not understanding the point of confirming defense nominees by unanimous consent. This is the method by which Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) is trying to get such nominations through, though he can also have the Senate take a full vote. And again, Lee also objected.

"Sen. Tuberville’s blanket hold on all military promotions is unlike anything that has ever happened in U.S. history. He’s holding up people who have already qualified for a promotion, a pay increase and new post, and he’s preventing all of that. It is insulting to our military," Warren also claimed to The Hill, despite how Sen. Tammy Duckworth (D-IL) has also engaged in hold-ups. 

The ball is in Schumer's court, who has complained that "if everyone of us is doing what he’s doing, what the senator from Alabama is doing, the military would collapse." Nominees can still be voted on, though, through a full vote as opposed to unanimous consent. Further, as Tuberville's office pointed out, Schumer controls the schedule in the Senate.

It doesn't look like Schumer is willing to negotiate, though. As The Hill explained:

But Schumer on Wednesday said he’s not inclined to give Tuberville a vote because it would set a bad precedent and likely incentivize other senators to put blanket holds on department nominees to win political concessions.  

“What Tommy Tuberville is doing is reckless — holding up the lives and the progress of men and women who have served in our military for a very, very long time. This is unique, what he is doing. If he does it and then everyone else does it, it’s going to lead to total chaos with the military and damage our national security, and we won’t stand for it,” he said.  

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White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre is also quoted making similar claims to members like Sen. Mazie Hirono (D-HI) when it comes to the motivation behind this. "This political showmanship could have a serious impact on our military readiness, on our military forces and our national security," she said. 

As the same senior Republican staffer reminded, this comes back to the idea of negotiations overall, including the debt ceiling. "Democrats assume Republicans will cave. This is what they always assume. That is the bet the White House is making on the debt ceiling, for example. And every time a Republican caves, or gives in for some symbolic future promise, it emboldens Democrats and the White House," the staffer offered. 

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