Arkansas Senator Tommy Tuberville is holding 168 military promotions in limbo over paying for travel expenses for needed health care not available where they are stationed. This includes Abortion Services. Tuberville said he will keep the hold on the promotions until the policy is changed.
“Over the past 40 years, I don’t recall one military person ever complaining that we weren’t performing enough abortions,” he declared at a Senate hearing earlier this year.Tuberville’s move has drawn criticism from some Republicans, including Sen. Susan Collins of Maine, who said, “My concern is holding the promotions of members of the military as opposed to political nominees.”
Normally top military nominations move swiftly through the Senate, but it only takes one person’s objection to slow down the process.“I want our military to be the strongest and the deadliest it has ever been but also want the administration to follow the law,” Tuberville said. “As long as I have a voice in this body, Congress will write the laws, not the secretary of defense, not the Joint Chiefs.”
The Defense Department says the policy does not fund abortions but instead gives service members and their dependents the ability to get reproductive procedures that may no longer be available as states roll back abortion protections after the Supreme Court repealed Roe v. Wade last year.
“Almost 1 in 5 of our troops are women, and they don’t get a chance to choose where they’re stationed, so almost 80,000 of our women are stationed in places where they don’t have access to non-covered reproductive health care,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said at a Senate hearing Tuesday. “And I heard from our troops, I heard from our senior leaders, I heard from our chiefs and our secretaries, and this policy is based on strong legal grounds. And it is not a law; it is a policy.”
Unless Tuberville relents, there’s little the military or senators on either side of the aisle can do. Without an agreement, each promotion is subject to a simple majority vote, and given Senate procedure, it would take weeks to finish the dozens of promotions the Defense Department needs approved. Each military person would have to have a voice vote and discussion.
“Not only does Senator Tuberville want to control the decisions women in the military make about their own health; he’s willing to hurt our troops and our country to do so,” Sen Chuck Schumer said.
Others disagree unclouding Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., who is temporarily leading the Republican conference as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recovers from a fall and a concussion, defended Tuberville, saying he is using his “rights as a senator to get the attention of the administration.” “I agree that the Department of Defense’s policy is atrocious, and it is a departure from decades long understanding of federal public policy when it comes to that issue,” Thune said. Mitch McConnell disagrees with the holdup.