Some Senate Republicans sided with Democrats in pushing to approve hundreds of President Joe Biden’s military promotions Wednesday night, even as the Defense Department continues to allow taxpayer-funded travel for service members or spouses to obtain an abortion.
The bipartisan move was to break a “hold” placed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., on more than 300 military promotions to force Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to drop the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
Tuberville and most other Republicans said Austin’s policy is illegal and violates the Hyde Amendment, a decades old measure that prohibits taxpayer funding of abortion.
Sen. Mitt Romney, R-Utah, said both Austin and Tuberville were “taking intractable positions.”
“If each senator held up military promotions until we got our way, the military would grind to a halt,” Romney said. “Sen. Tuberville correctly pointed out what Secretary Austin did is against the law. We have a process when something is against the law. It’s the court process.”
In a floor speech, Tuberville said he reveres the U.S. military and respects his colleagues’ commitment to being pro-life. He said the disagreement is about abortion, but also about the rule of law.
“There is no law that allowed [the Pentagon] to do this. There is a law that says they can’t do this,” Tuberville said. The Alabama Republican added: “This is about whether the Pentagon can make law. The only institution I honor more than the military is the Constitution.”
The issue is narrowly contested because Republicans hold 49 seats in the Senate and Democrats hold 48, but can count on the votes of three independents.
Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts defended Tuberville.
“The fact that some Republicans would pressure their own, as opposed to pressuring Biden on his DEI nonsense (at the Defense Department, no less!), is outrageous,” Roberts wrote earlier Wednesday in a post on X, formerly Twitter. (The Daily Signal is the news outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
Throughout the night, Sen. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, read off numerous Biden nominees for military promotions and made a motion to bring each promotion up for a vote. Each time, Tuberville objected to the Senate’s taking a vote.
“I am pro-life to the core,” Sullivan said, but added, “The holds pose a strategic risk to our forces.”
Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, a military veteran, talked about how she was a mother. Now her daughter serves in the Army, Ernst said, and is about to be a mother.
Ernst also read off names and detailed the qualifications of military leaders whose promotions were being held as a result of Tuberville’s challenge to the Pentagon.
Ernst described herself as “adamantly and unabashedly pro-life.”
“The DOD is waging war on the unborn, a war that is immoral and illegal,” Ernst said of the Defense Department.
But, the Iowa Republican said, the military officers whose promotions were being held up aren’t responsible for Austin’s abortion policy.
Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., agreed, saying, “What this is going to do is open up a Pandora’s box” on objecting to nominees for military promotions every time a senator disagrees with a policy.
“If we require the military to be subordinate to civilian control, why would we punish them for something they had nothing to do with?” Graham said.
This story is developing and will be updated.
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