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Tipsheet

Months Later, Tuberville Stands by Opposition to Pentagon's Abortion Policy As He Holds Up DoD Nominees

AP Photo/Butch Dill

Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) hold on military nominees in response to the Pentagon's illegal abortion policy will be entering its fifth month, The Hill pointed out in seeking to highlight Republicans in disarray over the hold. Tuberville has taken issue with a policy that gives service members paid time off for abortion, as well as covers travel expenses. The policy also applies to their dependents. As Tuberville has reminded at length, the policy 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.

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A report from last Friday mentions Republican senators such as Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Mike Rounds of South Dakota, and John Cornyn of Texas. Such members aren't necessarily opposed to Tuberville's methods, though the article is titled "Military holds enter fifth month as Republicans struggle to appease Tuberville," and certainly seems to be going for an angle suggesting a dip in support:

“Either side could make a move and right now neither side seems to think that these nominations are important enough to override the position that they find themselves in,” Sen. Mike Rounds (R-S.D.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told The Hill. “So we’re at a stalemate.”

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Even those supportive of his push have tried to find a resolution. Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) told The Hill that he has talked with the Alabama Republican about the situation and was hopeful something could be done to rectify things via the annual defense authorization bill. 

“I don’t disagree with Sen. Tuberville’s point. But … there needs to be a means to accomplish that,” Cornyn said. “I believe in counting the votes, as opposed to depending on my optimism, and I’m not sure they’re there yet. I’m not sure they’re not there, but I think that’s the way to go.” 

Others, however, indicated they are tired of discussing the prolonged back-and-forth.

“I’ve answered a lot of questions about [this],” Sen. Deb Fischer (R-Neb.), an Armed Services Committee member, said when asked if she’s sensed any movement on the holds. Fischer initially said that she was not supportive of Tuberville’s tactics before telling reporters that she supports his efforts.

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Anonymous Republican aides are also cited by The Hill expressing concern about what can be done. "It seems like everyone’s confused," the aide is quoted as saying. "I don’t know how we get to a solution here. I’m not sure there’s anyone on this planet that can talk him off of this. Plenty have tried."

It's worth mentioning that Fischer had previously been incorrectly attributed as saying she did not support Tuberville's plans, though she was clear in telling POLITICO's Burgess Everett she supports him. 

As Townhall and other conservative outlets such as The Daily Signal have highlighted at length, 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. 

"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

Tuberville, as he has maintained, is not looking to block these military nominees, but rather opposes them being confirmed by unanimous consent. In that case, in order for nominees to get approved, they can receive a vote from the full Senate, which is controlled by the Democrats. Predictably, though, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) has been among those taking issue with Tuberville's actions and has inserted pro-abortion politics into it. 

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Although this point about a full vote is not mentioned in The Hill's report, what will appease the senator is:

Tuberville told reporters that three things could get him to lift the hold on military promotions: A reversal of Pentagon policy, a successful vote to codify the policy or a failed vote to do so, with the latter two options coming both via a bill proposed by Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D-N.H.). Tuberville’s staff clarified his comments, saying that a failed vote would not do the trick unless the Department of Defense dropped the policy ahead of a hypothetical vote on the Shaheen bill. 

This report and previous reporting from The Hill also points to comments from President Joe Biden expressing opposition to Tuberville's holds, which he called "bizarre."

"It’s bizarre, I don’t remember it happening before," Biden said during a fundraiser last Monday about the holds, though he didn't mention Tuberville by name. "I know I don’t look like I’ve been around, but I’ve been around a long time." Biden has indeed been in politics for decades, including as a senator from Delaware. His memory is rather faulty on the issue, though, considering that a member of his own party, Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois, had announced a "blanket hold" on military nominees in July of 2020. Biden was running for president at the time. 

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Duckworth's hold is not mentioned in The Hill's reporting. 

Still another report from The Hill mentions that Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-MA), among others, called for a move as radical as changing the rules. Tuberville had objected to Warren looking to send military promotions through by unanimous consent. 

As that report quotes several members as mentioning:

“We need to talk about changing rules that Republicans have learned to exploit. We can’t continue in a world where one senator puts our entire national defense at risk because he doesn’t like one policy followed by the Department of Defense,” said Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.), a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee. She has repeatedly asked for unanimous consent to advance Biden’s nonpolitical military promotions only to be blocked by Tuberville.  

“Sen. Tuberville’s hold is just another indication of the madness that seems to have seized extremists in the Republican Party,” she said.  

Warren’s frustration is shared throughout the Senate Democratic caucus.  

“I don’t think one person should be able to hold up the promotions and lives of everybody in the military or any other part of government,” said Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D-Mich.), the chairwoman of the Senate Democratic Policy and Communications Committee. 

Asked whether Democrats would try to get around Tuberville by changing the rules, Stabenow said: “We’ll have to see.”  

“People are very, very frustrated. I think the rules change is very difficult, but this is irresponsible,” she said. “Now we’re talking about not filling key national security positions.” 

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“I do think we need to look at reforming the rules. I’ve thought for a long time we should reform the rules, and this is Exhibit A of why we need to do that,” said Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D-Md.). “It is hurting the country badly, and the Senate has the obligation to allow every member to have his or her say but not shut down the entire process.” 

“This is eating away at our national security, it’s putting our national security at risk and the longer it goes on, the more dangerous it can get,” he said. 

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Again, Schumer can call a vote on the nominees. More to the point, the Pentagon could rescind the policy, or existing law could be changed to codify the policy so that it is more precisely implemented, in order for Tuberville to drop his hold. 

When it comes to the narrative about military preparedness, a top combatant commander rebutted such a narrative during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing from April 20, 2023. The commander indicated that "operationally" the holds have "no impact" because military leaders remain in their posts until they are replaced.

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