Republicans in the U.S. Senate voted to trick the American people Tuesday.

The Senate voted on a motion to table an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act. Theoretically, if the vote had passed, Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, would have then proposed her own amendment dealing with pro-life policy, but the vote was never going to pass. Everyone knew that. Everyone was in on the game.

Why go through such a vote? Republican senators want you to think they are fighting for life even though most of them aren’t. 

It’s worse than that; a few of them are actively fighting against the cause of life.

The context for this is the Biden administration’s illegal abortion policy change implemented for the armed forces in the wake of the Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization decision, which overturned the abortion precedent Roe v. Wade. In response to the administration, Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., used his authority as a senator to fight back.

He put a “hold” on bypassing the Senate rules to fast-track high-ranking military promotions until the policy was reversed. Tuberville stood strong in the face of intense criticism and scrutiny for almost a year until his Republican colleagues, led by Sens. Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, and Ernst, threatened to join Senate Democrats to fundamentally alter the rules of the Senate just to get around his hold. 

Despite that, the fight for life still wasn’t over. In conference negotiations to resolve differences between the House and Senate versions of the NDAA, Senate Republicans and their colleagues in the House could have insisted on keeping the provision in the House-passed NDAA to stop the illegal Biden administration abortion policy. But they didn’t. They agreed to take it out.

Which brings us to what happened today. Those same Republican senators who forcibly stopped Tuberville from continuing his fight for life and then declined to use the leverage they had in conference negotiations for the final version of the NDAA to stop the abortion policy had the audacity to demand a procedural vote related to the same issue. It failed 47-53. That was not a surprise. It was failure theater. 

In Washington circles there’s an old joke about “voting yes while hoping no.” Votes like this one are designed so that politicians can go back home to their voters and pretend that they tried to deliver on their promises. They’ll say, “Look, I demanded a vote, and I got one. Unfortunately, we just didn’t have the numbers to win.” They’re hoping you don’t know the truth: that this fight was already over and they were on the wrong side of it. 

Several weeks ago, while opposing Tuberville’s efforts, Sullivan and Ernst made speeches on the floor of the Senate in which they directly questioned Tuberville’s honor. They called his actions stupid.

As someone once said, “Every accusation is a confession.” 

What’s dishonorable is pretending to fight for life. What’s stupid is believing you can get away with it.

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