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Tipsheet

Stories of GOP in Disarray Over Tuberville's Holding Up of DoD Nominees Continues to be Fake News

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) continues to stand by his word, and the rule of law when it comes to holding up Department of Defense (DoD) nominees. He's not going to back down, but rather is calling on the Biden administration to follow the law. Instead, the DoD is going with an illegal policy that allows service members receive paid time off as well as travel reimbursement for having an abortion, or if their dependents do. Tuberville has repeatedly called for a vote from Congress on that policy. The media doesn't seem to have gotten the memo, though.

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Last week, The Hill reported that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-KY) came out against such a plan from Tuberville. "I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations, I don’t support that," McConnell was quoted as telling reporters. When asked about resolving the matter, McConnell offered "you’ll have to ask Sen. Tuberville about that."

Previous reporting from The Hill was also mentioned in this piece, including how Sen. Susan Collins (R-ME) said "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." 

As I pointed out in addressing the piece at the time, it's worth highlighting how the other Republican senators quoted as expressing their concern with Tuberville's plans were conveniently not named. 

The Hill has looked to re-emphasize that opposition from McConnell in another piece from Thursday morning, which also addresses comments about white nationalism in the military, something Tuberville has since said referred to how he was skeptical there were white nationalists in the military. That piece made its way into being mentioned in The Hill's "Morning Report," which actually compared Tuberville to Rep. George Santos (R-NY). 

The piece yet again mentions an anonymous Republican senator, in addition to Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), though it's worth mentioning that there's an editor's note clarifying that Fischer says she actually supports Tuberville. 

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In addition to claiming that Tuberville "has annoyed fellow Republicans with a hold on military promotions," the piece mentions the following comments from an anonymous member:

Though some Republicans have opposed Tuberville’s holds, they are largely brushing off the Democratic criticisms of his remarks about white nationalism.

One Senate Republican told The Hill the one-two punch isn’t creating internal consternation for the GOP conference, adding the remarks last week are viewed as an “isolated event” and downplayed it as “one member acting on his own.” 

At the same time, the Senate Republican said Tuberville might want to rethink his strategy.

“If you use holds strategically and you focus on an agency, there’s no reason why he can’t pick and choose,” the Senate Republican said. “I think he’d be wise to just go back and just identify the agency that Austin’s inaction is going to end up having a problem with and just create a problem for that agency versus a [Department of Defense]-wide issue. That’s going to be hard to hold up over time.” 

“That really should have been the way he went into it to begin with,” the Senate GOP member added.

The piece, though, fails to truly make a cogent argument that the opposition is really that prevalent. In fact, it actually mentions support from Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX):

His long-standing hold even has support in some corners of GOP leadership. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas), a McConnell ally, told reporters earlier this week the opposition is warranted. 

“One of the biggest problems around here is people aren’t held accountable when they overstep their authority,” Cornyn said, referring to the Pentagon. “I regret that it’s necessary, but I think it is.”

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POLITICO on Tuesday mentioned concerns from Sens. Roger Wicker (R-MS) and Bill Cassidy (R-LA), but also support from Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY):

Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the highest ranking Republican on the Armed Services Committee, voiced his objections to Tuberville's moves.

"I would not have chosen to approach it that way," Wicker told POLITICO. "I think there's a a vital reason to put these officers in place. Clearly, we're trying to resolve it but I think it hasn't come easy."

Sen. Bill Cassidy (R-La.) echoed Wicker's concerns, underlining the security risks that comes with holding up critical nominees.

"I understand the senator's concern, but it's a dangerous world right now, and we want to make sure that we're not sacrificing readiness," Cassidy said.

...

However: Several other Senate Republicans are still publicly backing Tuberville's crusade, according to a number of brief interviews Monday.

"This is historically how it works," said Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.). "Part of the power of the purse is trying to get information from a reluctant administration, so I think that Sen. Tuberville is doing God's work."

It's not just Cornyn, Fischer, and Paul who support Tuberville, though one wouldn't know it from The Hill's piece, and readers wouldn't know about Fischer's actual stance without an editor's note. Tuberville has the public support of not only fellow Republican senators, but also House Republicans, pro-life leaders, and retired military members.

Support from some of these members, which a senior Republican staffer had doubled down on, has been reported in previous Townhall coverage as well. 

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"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 told Townhall last month

Further, while POLITICO at least sought to provide more of a fair shake when it comes to Tuberville's position, The Hill read like a Democratic mouth-piece at times. 

"Tuberville has effectively blocked promotions for roughly 200 senior military officials in key regions over the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which allows service members to take leave and provides travel reimbursements for those who need to travel to get an abortion. That is a more common need since the end of Roe," it read, referring to the end of Roe v. Wade following last year's Dobbs v. Jackson decision from the U.S. Supreme Court.

Democrats have made similar points about a supposed "need," including Sens. Jack Reed (D-RI) and Mazie Hirono (D-HI). As Tuberville's office has explained, though, the DoD has not explained how the Dobbs decision actually impacts military recruitment or readiness, despite the senator asking Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin. 

Tuberville's office has explained that the DoD's plan is in violation of 10 U.S.C. 1093, which dictates that abortion can only be funded in those limited cases of rape, incest, or threat to the life of the mother. It also applies to service members' spouses and dependents, though that's not mentioned in The Hill's piece. Tuberville has also emphasized the need for Austin to go through Congress if he wishes to change this law. 

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Further, military members can still get abortions, as DoD medical facilities are subject under that federal law, and abortion access at military bases remains the same, with the Dobbs decision having no impact on abortion for enlisted service members, Tuberville's office also explained. 

Tuberville's office also explained that when it comes to any livelihood concerns, once officers are promoted they will receive their pay raise backdated to the date of their being selected to higher rank. The figures of the high salaries service members make are also publicly available at the Defense Finance and Accounting Service’s website

Previous reporting from The Hill has included statements from Tuberville about what it will take for him to relent:

Tuberville told The Hill on Wednesday that he would be willing to relent if given a vote on the Senate floor on a proposal to strictly bar the Defense Department from spending any taxpayer money to help service members obtain abortions. 

“That’s what we’re waiting on,” he said. “Either put it in the [National Defense Authorization Act] or do a standalone [bill].” 

“As long as there’s no money spent by the taxpayers [for abortions],” he added.  

When it comes to Senate Democrats being so concerned about confirming military nominees, they might want to remember that they control the chamber. Tuberville is holding up military nominees by objecting to them via unanimous consent. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) can call for a vote from the full Senate. 

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It is worth looking into the service members who might be promoted, though, as Mary Margaret Olohan did earlier on Friday for The Daily Signal. Capt. Michael Donnelly, who's been promoted to rear admiral, was the commanding officer when drag queen events took place. As Olohan wrote:

Capt. Michael Donnelly served as commanding officer of the aircraft carrier the USS Ronald Reagan from April 2016 to September 2018. During that time period, Yeoman 2rd Class Joshua Kelley was performing as a drag queen at Morale, Welfare, and Recreation department-sanctioned events on the carrier under the drag name “Harpy Daniels.”

As commander of the USS Ronald Reagan, Donnelly would have been aware of, and responsible for, that activity, according to William Thibeau, director of The American Military Project at The Claremont Institute.

Tuberville recently stood firm on his stance when speaking with Tony Perkins of the Family Research Council on Thursday. He explained that "this is the only power we have, put a hold on something," with Republicans being in the minority. "The only power we have in the minority is to say 'listen, we want to hold this, and you gotta go through regular order to make sure this is done right.'"

The senator also reminded Perkins that "they can get all these people confirmed," referring to the defense nominees he has been holding up, adding "they just don't want to work, they want to put 'em all in one group and everybody raise a hand and vote for 'em and send 'em all down the line. Guess what? That ain't happening with me."

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