WASHINGTON — U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville (R-AL) authored the following op-ed in The Wall Street Journal explaining his decision to hold all U.S. Department of Defense (DoD) general and flag officer nominations before the U.S. Senate. Senator Tuberville is following through on a pledge he made to hold the confirmation of DoD nominees after the Pentagon implemented an unprecedented policy of funding travel and paid time off for service members and their dependents seeking an elective abortion.
In the op-ed, Senator Tuberville explains why he believes the DoD’s new policy that expands taxpayer-subsided abortions circumvents federal law, and pushed back against fallacies and attacks on his position made by Democrats.
Excerpts from the op-ed can be found below, and the full text is available here.
The Pentagon Shouldn’t Wage Culture War
U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville
The Wall Street Journal
April 2, 2023
“The Biden administration has spent the past two years trying to inject politics into the military. In February this effort reached a new low as the administration put the taxpayer on the hook for travel and paid time off for service members, wives and other dependents to get elective abortions.”
“When word of this new policy leaked in December, I warned Pentagon officials that I would block their nominees in the Senate if they went through with it. They did it anyway. I’ve kept my word and put a hold on their nominees.”
“Cue the outrage machine in Washington. Last week Chuck Schumer attacked me on the Senate floor by name. I’m new to Capitol Hill and hardly know the guy, but even I know it’s not every week that the majority leader goes after a specific senator four days in a row. A chorus of pro-abortion Democrats joined him in attacking me for following through on what I said I would do.”
“Senate Democrats recently threatened holds on military nominations to stop the military’s Space Command from moving from Colorado to Huntsville, Ala., the location the Air Force determined would be best. In 2020, Sen. Tammy Duckworth of Illinois threatened to block more than 1,000 military nominees unless Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an accuser of Donald Trump, was promoted to full colonel.”
“Democrats haven’t explained how abortion makes our military stronger or safer. The only war they are focused on winning is the culture war.”
“Despite what Democrats say, my hold doesn’t stop anybody from getting confirmed. Senators could get around my hold with a simple confirmation vote on a particular nominee. It simply prevents nominees being confirmed in large groups through a procedure called unanimous consent. The Senate has had 24 days off this year—not counting the two-week recess in January and the current two-week recess. Voting is the Senate’s job, but sometimes we don’t even take our first vote of the week until Tuesday evening.”
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 March 8, 2023, Senator Tuberville followed through with his pledge to hold all general and flag officer nominations on the Senate floor. Senator Tuberville defended his hold on the floor again on March 23, 2023.
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.
Contrary to 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 a few weeks ago, Senator Michael Bennet (D-CO) threatened to hold Pentagon nominees because he was upset his home state lost a competition to house U.S. Space Command headquarters — to Alabama. Despite what Senator Bennet has said on the Senate floor, this hold would have affected six nominees
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.