The senator argues that the DOD didn’t have the authority to fund paid leave and travel for service members seeking abortion, demanding it reverse the policy.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s (R-Ala.) response was a straightforward shake of the head “no” when reporters asked whether he was willing to negotiate over the military promotions standoff amid growing pushback from his Republican colleagues.
“No, we’ve going down for seven months,” he said Tuesday. “They’re not into it either. There’s no give-and-take here, either side.”
High-ranking military nominations have to be approved by the Senate, usually in a batch vote, but Mr. Tuberville has placed a hold on the process due to the Department of Defense’s (DOD) policy of granting funds and leave for military service members and their family members who want to get an abortion.
Hyde Amendment laws prohibit federal funds from going towards abortions, with exceptions for rape, incest, and when the life of the mother is at stake.
In the wake of the Supreme Court’s Dobbs v. Jackson decision that overturned Roe v. Wade, states where 450,000 service members live have enacted abortion laws, according to a DOD press release.
Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin signed a memo allowing for funding of paid leave and travel reimbursement for abortions for service members and their families in October 2022,
Mr. Tuberville maintains that Mr. Austin had no authority to allow for such funding via a memo. He is demanding the DOD reverse its policy, and then follow procedure and send up legislation for a vote.
“Move it back to what it was … and then send over what you want to vote on and let’s vote it up or down, whichever way it goes. If they move it back and we get a vote, that constitutes no holds,” he said. “And then let the vote go as it may.”
Mr. Tuberville’s hold has drawn the ire of military members and politicians on both the left and right.
Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) told reporters on Tuesday that his colleague was making a “mistake.”
“I think holding these non-policymaking career military [officials] who can’t be involved in politics at all is a mistake, and we continue to work on that and I hope at some point we can get it clear,” he said.
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) took to CNN over the weekend to blast Mr. Tuberville’s hold.
Mr. McCaul added that he supported efforts to pass legislation that would repeal the DOD’s abortion policy. Though it would garner support in the Republican-controlled House, it would likely fail in the Democrat-controlled Senate.
On CNN, a staffer for Mr. Tuberville pointed to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) as a responsible party as well.
“No one can stop Chuck Schumer from holding votes on these nominations. He just doesn’t want to,” said spokesperson Steve Stafford.
Mr. Schumer dismissed that line of reasoning on Tuesday.
“Look, the bottom line is this is a Republican problem. Don’t pawn it off on us. It was created by Tuberville solely himself, and it’s up to the Republicans to put pressure on him to back off, plain and simple. We’re already seeing that pressure mount,” Mr. Schumer said. “The pressure is mounting. Tuberville should back off.”
He further told The Hill that calls for the DOD to make some concessions were “absurd.”
Several members of Congress have called on the DOD and Mr. Tuberville to compromise, including Sen. Kyrsten Sinema ( I-Ariz.).
“Any claim that holding up the promotions of top officers does not directly damage the military is wrong—plain and simple,” they wrote, arguing that the actions were hurting the nation’s military capability and putting national security at risk.
In the months since Mr. Tuberville began the hold, he has not budged.
“I’ve not changed my mind. I’m doing this for the right reasons,” Mr. Tuberville said last week on “Greg Kelly Reports.”