WASHINGTON – Last night, U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) delivered remarks on the Senate floor after several of his colleagues tried to circumvent his blanket hold on general officer, flag officer, and civilian nominations due to the Pentagon’s illegal abortion-related policy. Read excerpts from the speech below or watch here.
“I want to start by thanking my colleagues for their service in the Armed Forces of the greatest country ever. There is no institution in this world I honor more than the United States military. I am thankful to every veteran in this country. I also want to note that I respect my colleagues’ strong pro-life voting record. The Republican party has been the pro-life party for half a century. We ought to be proud that we stand for life. We stand for the most vulnerable of our society, the unborn. I know my colleagues here share that conviction. The disagreement we’re having today is about tactics.
So let me explain why I’m doing this – how we got here and where we go from here. Nine months ago, the Pentagon announced that they would start using our taxpayer dollars to facilitate abortion. Let me say that one more time. Nine months ago, the Pentagon announced by memo that they would start using our taxpayer dollars to facilitate abortion. The Pentagon is now paying for travel and extra time off for service members and their dependents to get abortions. Congress never voted for this. We also never appropriated the money for this. There is no law that allows them to do this. In fact, there is a law that says they can’t do this. One more time – there is a law that says they can’t do this – created in this room. It’s 10 USC section 1093. It says the only time the Pentagon can spend taxpayer dollars on abortion is in cases of rape, incest, and threat to the health of the mom.
So, this is a policy that is illegal and immoral. This is about life. And it’s also about the rule of law. It’s about our Constitution. It’s about whether we make laws at the Pentagon or whether we follow the Constitution. This is also about the integrity of our military. The only thing in this world I honor more than our military is the Constitution. We all swore to uphold the Constitution. I also feel very strongly about the obligation to uphold it every day in this room. I cannot simply sit idly by while the Biden Administration injects politics in our military, again, injects politics in our military from the White House, and spends taxpayers’ dollars on abortion.
The only power that a senator in the minority has is to put a hold on a nomination. The only thing. I’m not the first person to do this. Holds on nominations happen all the time. Holds on military nominations have happened many, many, many, many times before. Typically, they don’t last this long because the administration will work with a senator until the issue is resolved. But that has not happened this time. Zero negotiation. Abortion is the most important thing to the Democrats that they have and they won’t negotiate it. One more time, abortion is the most important thing that Democrats have and they will not negotiate. This has been going on for nine months. Every day this continues is a day that Democrats think abortion is more important than the nominations in our military.
I support many of these nominees and I agree that these are very, very important jobs. But we could have been voting on these nominees the entire nine months. The Senate has had more than ninety days off this year, not including weekends. Each nomination could take as little as two hours. In fact, tomorrow, we’ll be voting on three of the most important nominees that we’ve forced the leader of the Senate to bring to the floor. The nominees at the very top ought to be voted on anyway. These jobs are too important not to receive the advice and consent of the Senate.
I have to respectfully disagree with my colleagues about the effect of my hold on readiness. My hold is not affecting readiness. The Biden Administration had been saying this for months. But nobody has an explanation. Nobody. The fact is no jobs, no jobs are going unfilled. Every job. Every job is being done. In fact, General Mark Milley said recently that our readiness is the best it has been in years. Time and again, generals and service members have assured me that they’re ready to go. I believe it. So, I’m going to keep my holds in place. If senators want to vote on these nominees one by one, I’m all in. I’m happy to do that. But I will keep my hold in place until the Pentagon follows the law or the Democrats change the law.
This is about our Constitution. This is about the rule of law. That’s what we’re about in here. It’s about the integrity of our military. It’s about keeping politics out of the military. I did not put it in the military. Joe Biden and Secretary Austin put politics in the military, and it’s about the right to life. These are some of the most important things in the world to me. And so, Mister President, I object.”
Following the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization in June 2022, the Department of Defense claimed in a memorandum that the ruling would “have significant implications for…the readiness of the Force,” but provided no evidence to support this conclusion. On July 15, 2022, Senator Tuberville and Republican members of the Senate Armed Services Committee (SASC) sent a letter calling on Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to justify the assertion. The letter went unanswered.
On October 20, 2022, Secretary Austin released another memorandum entitled “Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care.” The memo outlined the Department of Defense’s intent to develop policy, procedures, and programs to expand taxpayer-subsided abortion in the military beyond what is currently allowed under federal law.
On November 28, 2022, Senator Tuberville and his Republican SASC colleagues sent an additional letter to Secretary Austin asking him to explain the October memo and the Department of Defense’s justification for the potential expansion of its abortion policy. In the letter, the senators warned, “The Department’s actions send the implicit message to our service members that pregnancy is a liability to the force and our military’s success hinges on access to abortion. This is an egregious mistake.” Again, the letter went unanswered.
The Department of Defense finally scheduled a briefing for Senate offices on November 17, 2022, about the Department’s memorandums and potential policy changes. However, the briefing was abruptly canceled. In response, on December 5, 2022, Senator Tuberville placed a hold on DoD nominations until the Pentagon rescheduled the canceled briefing and responded to questions about the military’s memos on reproductive care.
Within 24 hours, the DoD rescheduled the staff briefing, and it occurred on December 7, 2022. During the rescheduled briefing for members of Senator Tuberville’s staff, Department of Defense officials revealed their intent to announce a new policy that would cover travel and leave for service members and their dependents seeking abortions. Following the briefing, on December 9, 2022, Senator Tuberville notified Secretary Austin that he would place an additional hold on Department of Defense nominees if the Department implemented its abortion plan, which Senator Tuberville believes is illegal.
The department’s authority to fund abortions is governed by 10 U.S.C. 1093, which limits abortions to cases of rape, incest, or pregnancies that threaten the life of the mother. These rules apply to both service members and their spouses and dependents. Given this provision, the Department of Defense has averaged fewer than 20 abortions per year, with 91 abortions at military facilities occurring between 2016 and 2021. According to a third-party study cited by officials, the number of abortions subsidized by the Department of Defense under the new policy could increase to 4,100 annually — 205 times the number of abortions performed in recent years.
Without responding to Senator Tuberville’s pledge, Secretary Austin released another memorandum on February 16, 2023, announcing the formal implementation of the abortion policy to fund travel and paid time off for service members and their dependents seeking an abortion, despite existing law.
On February 16, 2023, Senator Tuberville followed through with his pledge to hold all general officer, flag officer, and civilian nominations on the Senate floor.
On July 28, 2023, Senator Tuberville sent a letter to the Pentagon requesting more information about how the illegal policy is being used. As of September 20, 2023, he has not heard back.
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. The nominations can still be approved by the Senate, but have to be brought to the floor individually. On September 20, 2023, Chuck Schumer caved and did exactly what Coach has been asking him to do by bringing nominations before the Senate floor. On October 31, 2023, Schumer caved again after Coach moved to get another nomination confirmed.
Contrary to false claims by Democrats, Senator Tuberville’s hold is not unprecedented. The tactic has been threatened and used by senators from both parties for decades. Just this summer, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) threatened to hold Pentagon nominees over a dispute about the location for the U.S. Space Command headquarters. Despite what Senator Bennet has said on the Senate floor, this hold would have affected six nominees.
Senator Tuberville’s efforts have received strong support from conservative leaders, including Sen. Mike Lee (R-UT), Sen. Roger Marshall (R-KS), Sen. Markwayne Mullin (R-OK), Sen. Ron Johnson (R-WI), Sen. Eric Schmitt (R-MO), Sen. Deb Fischer (R-NE), Sen. John Thune (R-SD), Sen. Ted Budd (R-NC), Sen. Steve Daines (R-MT), Sen. Marco Rubio (R-FL), Sen. Joni Ernst (R-IA), Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AR), Sen. Dan Sullivan (R-AK), Sen. Kevin Cramer (R-ND), Sen. James Lankford (R-OK), Sen. Mike Rounds (R-SD), Sen. Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), Sen. Katie Britt (R-AL), Sen. John Cornyn (R-TX), Vice President Mike Pence, Governor Ron Desantis, Governor Doug Burgum, Dr. Ben Carson, Founder of American Cornerstone Institute; Marjorie Dannenfelser, President of Susan B. Anthony Pro-life America; Brian Burch, President of CatholicVote.org; Tony Perkins, President of Family Research Council; Kevin Roberts, President of The Heritage Foundation; Jeanne Mancini, President of March for Life Action; Jessica Anderson, Executive Director of Heritage Action for America; Brent Bozell, Founder and President of Media Research Center; Morton Blackwell, Chairman of Conservative Leadership PAC; Dean Nelson, Executive Director of Human Coalition Action; Penny Nance, President of Concerned Women for America Legislative Action Committee; Catherine Glenn Foster, President & CEO of Americans United for Life; Ryan T. Anderson, Ph.D., President of The Ethics and Public Policy Center; Ken Blackwell, Chairman of Conservative Action Project; Mike Berry, Vice President of External Affairs of First Liberty; Star Parker, Founder and President of Center for Urban Renewal and Education; Paul Teller, Executive Director of Advancing American Freedom; David Bozell, President of For America; Elaine Donnelly, President of Center for Military Readiness; Kelly Shackelford, President/CEO of First Liberty Institute; Tom Fitton, President of Judicial Watch; Former U.S. Rep. Bob McEwen, Ohio; Diana L. Banister of Sovereign Global Solutions; Eric Johnston, Director of Alabama Pro-Life Coalition; John Wahl, Chairman of Alabama Republican Party; Eunie Smith, President of Eagle Forum of Alabama; Marty Connors, Director of Center-Right Coalition Alabama; Greg Davis, President and CEO of Alabama Citizen’s Action Program; Ashley Liveoak, Executive Director of Choose Life Alabama.
Senator Tommy Tuberville represents Alabama in the United States Senate and is a member of the Senate Armed Services, Agriculture, Veterans’ Affairs, and HELP Committees.