Pentagon press secretary Brig. Gen. Pat Ryder misled reporters at Monday’s briefing when he claimed Defense Department legislative staff were in contact with Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s office, a spokesman for the Alabama Republican told The Daily Signal.
Tuberville is currently blocking the promotions of more than 300 flag officers and military generals over objections to the Defense Department’s new taxpayer-funded abortion policy. He asserts the Pentagon’s policy was unlawfully implemented without congressional approval and that he won’t release his “hold” on the promotions until the policy is revoked.
Ryder, when asked by a reporter Monday, said Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin last spoke to Tuberville over a month ago on July 18. Ryder then added, “Obviously, our legislative affairs staff continues to remain in contact with the senator’s staff.”
That came as news to Tuberville’s staff, which has not been in contact with the Pentagon.
“With all due respect to Gen. Ryder, this is simply not accurate,” Tuberville’s spokesman told The Daily Signal.
The Defense Department did not respond to The Daily Signal’s follow-up questions about Ryder’s claim.
This isn’t the first time the Pentagon and Biden administration have faced criticism for their handling of the matter.
In June, White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre was asked why the White House hadn’t worked out a compromise with the senator. She said, “I have to talk to our Office of Leg [Legislative] Affairs. I do not know when the last time that they spoke to the senator.”
The following day, Tuberville confirmed he had heard nothing from President Joe Biden or the White House.
“I’ll tell you when the last time was—never. The White House has not reached out once in four months,” Tuberville said at the time. “No one has contacted me; there has not been one conversation, no path forward.”
He made a similar comment about Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., during an interview with Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts. (The Daily Signal is Heritage’s news and commentary outlet.)
When the Senate returns to Washington, D.C., next week, the stalemate will enter its sixth month with no indication the Pentagon will change its abortion policy. Tuberville, meanwhile, remains steadfast in opposition to rubber-stamping any miliary promotions.
“This policy on abortion is way overboard,” Tuberville said in a TV interview posted Wednesday. “They’re not supposed to be making laws, and I’m not going to allow them to do it. They’re going to have to change this policy back and bring it to the [Senate] floor, and let’s vote on it.”
Speaking to reporters Monday, Ryder framed the issue as “ensuring that there’s equitable health care for all our servicemembers.” He then reiterated an unsubstantiated claim that Tuberville’s actions were affecting military readiness.
Austin made a similar argument two weeks ago.
“This is unprecedented, it is unnecessary, and it is unsafe,” he added. “This sweeping hold is undermining America’s military readiness. It’s hindering our ability to retain our very best officers. And it’s upending the lives of far too many American military families.”
Tuberville, however, said he’s not to blame for the military’s recruiting and retention problems.
“Nobody wants to join the military because of all these woke policies that Secretary Austin and Joe Biden have put into place,” Tuberville said.
In recent weeks, The Daily Signal and other news outlets have reported on the “woke” views of Biden’s military nominees. Those reports have generated alarm among members of Congress and others who closely track the Pentagon’s embrace of critical race theory and the diversity, equity, and inclusion agenda.
Rep. Bob Good, R-Va., a House Freedom Caucus member who has rallied support for Tuberville, applauded the senator’s resolve and thanked him for holding the line.
“Sadly, many of [the officers] too are representative of what’s wrong with the new military and the Biden administration,” Good told The Daily Signal last week. “These are hyper-woke, hyper-leftist individuals who are part of promoting and pushing and advancing the policies that are undermining the military. So, I’m not in a hurry to get them in place anyway.”
Writing for The Federalist on Wednesday, American Accountability Foundation President Tom Jones called it “an unprecedented effort by Biden to turn the American military into a leftist military.”
“The officers Biden has nominated make up one of the wokest slates of nominees in history, committed to judging soldiers, sailors, airmen, and Marines by their race and sex, instead of by their merit,” Jones wrote. “These are people who believe that America’s institutions, including the military itself, are hopelessly racist and sexist.”
Senate Democrats would like to rubber-stamp the promotions using an expedited Senate procedure known as unanimous consent, which bypasses consideration of each nominee individually.
Since March, however, Tuberville has objected to numerous unanimous content requests from Democrats, preferring the Senate instead consider the promotions individually until the Defense Department rescinds its divisive taxpayer-funded abortion policy.
The Pentagon’s policy provides three weeks of taxpayer-funded paid leave and reimbursement of travel expenses for military personnel and dependents who are seeking an abortion. An estimate from Rand Corp. predicts the number of abortions in the military eligible for taxpayer-covered expenses would skyrocket from 20 to more than 4,000 each year.
Ryder was asked at Monday’s press briefing how many servicemembers had been compensated for receiving an abortion, but didn’t have an answer.
“I know that’s something that several of you have asked, and so, we’re working on that right now. So, I’ll come back to you on that,” Ryder said.
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