As senators head home for a two-week Easter recess, one Republican finds himself enemy No. 1 of Democrats.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., is playing hardball with the Biden administration over the Defense Department’s expansive new abortion policy. On three occasions, Tuberville has objected to his Democrat colleagues’ attempts to approve 184 promotions for military generals and flag officers. The latest showdown took place Wednesday.
This time, however, Tuberville had several Republican colleagues in his corner, starting with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, who joined him on the Senate floor to refute the Democrats’ attacks.
“I’m here to stand in support of my friend and colleague from Alabama,” Lee said. “He stands in opposition, legitimate objections which I share, to the Department of Defense’s plan to use federal funds to facilitate the performance of abortions.”
Lee added, “Let this be a message for Secretary [Lloyd] Austin: If you want to make the laws, run for Congress, but you can’t legislate from the E-ring at the Pentagon. You cannot do that. Until then, stand down, and leave the lawmaking to lawmakers.”
Although no other Republicans spoke on the Senate floor Wednesday, several have expressed outrage at the Pentagon’s policy, which provides three weeks of paid leave and reimbursement of travel expenses for military personnel and dependents who are seeking an abortion.
The Pentagon’s new policy could lead to a massive increase in the annual number of abortions from approximately 20 to more than 4,000, according to an estimate from a Rand Corp. study.
“The Pentagon should not be mobilized against the unborn. The Department of Defense exists to defend life, not destroy it,” Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, said upon introducing legislation with 35 co-sponsors to terminate the abortion policy.
Others have praised Tuberville directly for refusing to budge.
“I support him,” Sen. Deb Fischer, R-Neb., told Politico.
“I think he’s right in his concern for what the department is doing because we have never agreed to fund abortions in the past,” Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., told The Hill.
“Until these policies are rescinded, I’m going to also have to consider holds against DOD nominees in solidarity with my colleagues,” Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C., declared.
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., told Townhall: “The Biden Administration is exploiting the United States military to pursue their radical abortion agenda. Republicans must hold the line. At a time when our military is struggling to fill its ranks and replenish weapons stockpiles, our national security resources and American tax dollars should not be used to pay for service members and their dependents to travel to get abortions. Senator Tuberville is standing up for what is right, and I am proud to support him in his efforts against this illegal policy.”
And while other GOP senators didn’t explicitly endorse Tuberville’s tactics, they have voiced outrage at the Biden administration for politicizing the U.S. military and putting taxpayers on the hook for abortions.
“[The] Pentagon’s policy using taxpayer dollars to pay for the travel expenses for service members seeking an abortion is wrong and illegal and should be reversed,” Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont., told Townhall. “I hope the administration is working closely with Sen. Tuberville to resolve this issue.”
“I agree [with Tuberville] that the Department of Defense’s policy is atrocious, and it is a departure from decades long understanding of federal public policy,” Senate Republican Whip John Thune, R-S.D., added.
Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said: “President Biden is doing everything possible to preserve the practice of murdering unborn Americans, including using our military as an abortion travel agency. We cannot allow these crazy, left-wing priorities to erode our military.”
Beginning in 1980 with passage of the Hyde Amendment, named for then-Rep. Henry Hyde, R-Ill., Congress has restricted use of federal funding to pay for abortions. Lawmakers have placed Hyde-like restrictions on funds available to the Defense Department as well.
Taxpayers favor such protections, too. A survey in January conducted by the Marist Poll and commissioned by the Knights of Columbus revealed that 54% of Americans oppose taxpayer funding of abortion.
The Biden administration has taken several steps to expand abortion access throughout the federal government since the Supreme Court’s ruling last June in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization.
In response to the court’s overturning Roe v. Wade, the Defense Department issued its Oct. 20 memorandum, “Ensuring Access to Reproductive Health Care,” promising easier access to abortion for U.S. military personnel.
The Pentagon outlined its next steps Feb. 16, allowing service members to have an abortion without being docked leave and also grant travel and transportation allowances to individuals who don’t live in an area with an abortion provider.
With the 100-member Senate so narrowly divided, and several lawmakers absent for health reasons, Democrats would prefer to approve the 184 pending military appointments and promotions as a group. Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., could bring each nominee to the floor individually.
Instead, Schumer and others have made false accusations that Tuberville is jeopardizing national security.
Austin asserted Tuesday at a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing that “Not approving the recommendations for promotions actually creates a ripple effect through the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be.”
But as Austin digs in and the Biden administration pursues a more expansive abortion agenda, pro-life conservatives are speaking out.
Earlier this month, CatholicVote spearheaded a coalition letter with 23 leaders who represent millions of grassroots conservatives. Signatories include Kevin Roberts, president of The Heritage Foundation; Marjorie Dannenfelser, president of Susan B. Anthony Pro-Life America; Dr. Ben Carson, former secretary of the Department of Housing and Urban Development; Tony Perkins, president of the Family Research Council; Jeanne Mancini, president of March for Life Action; Brent Bozell, founder and president of the Media Research Center; Paul Teller, executive director of Advancing American Freedom; and others. (The Daily Signal is the media outlet of The Heritage Foundation.)
In addition to conservative leaders, Tuberville is also gaining support among members of the U.S. House.
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