A handful of Senate Republicans railed against Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., Wednesday night after the former football coach rejected dozens of military nominations in protest over the Pentagon’s abortion policy.
The group of GOP senators brought the promotions – a small batch of some 350 nominees still in limbo – to the floor for unanimous consent.
But Tuberville objected to each one – despite a recent effort to force a vote to approve the Marine Corps’ No. 2 leader after the service’s top officer was hospitalized after a reported heart attack – due to the Department of Defense’s controversial abortion policy that pays for some service members’ abortion procedure expenses.
“This is about the rule of law,” Tuberville said on the floor. “That’s what we’re about in here. It’s about the integrity of our military. It’s about keeping politics out of military. I did not put it in the military, Joe Biden and Secretary Austin put politics in the military, and it’s about the right to life.”
Sens. Todd Young, R-Ind., Mitt Romney, R-Utah, Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., and Dan Sullivan, R-Alaska, took turns on the floor urging Tuberville to rescind his opposition before selecting nominees one by one to be confirmed.
Graham, who said he disagreed with the Pentagon’s policy, fired back at the Alabama senator and held up a photo of Maj. Gen. Laura Lenderman, a service member awaiting promotion to lieutenant general and deputy commander of Pacific Air Forces.
“If you think they’ve done something illegal, go to court, that’s how you handle these things,” Graham said Thursday. “You just denied this lady a promotion. You did that.”
“Don’t hold hostage the men and women who have to follow civilian control,” he said. “Let’s don’t ruin the lives of all these people who have been serving our nation for decades.”
Speaking to reporters Thursday, Graham added he wants the “best people in command positions yesterday.”
“So having frustration with the White House abortion policy and Pentagon I understand,” he continued. “These officers had nothing to do with it. If we normalize this and every senator follows the lead of Sen. Tuberville, you’ll ruin the military.”
Romney agreed with Graham on taking the abortion policy – which senators argue violates the Hyde Amendment – to court, adding he would file a legal action to reverse the policy.
He also inquired if Tuberville would back the idea of the DOD withdrawing payments and instead relying on a private charity to finance the abortions.
“That was the type of negotiation I’ve been looking for the last nine months,” Tuberville responded. “Nobody – zero – has come to me with any alternatives to bypass to get this done.”
Ernst, Sullivan and Young all emphasized that service members should not be held responsible for Pentagon policies and argued the holds are affecting military readiness. Tuberville has consistently disagreed that readiness is plummeting.
“There are readiness issues, and that’s the whole point. We have a really dangerous world right now,” said Young, a member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee.
Meanwhile, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., threw his support Wednesday behind a Democrat-led proposal to change the chamber rules to funnel most military promotions through without a vote. Nine Republicans would have to vote with Democrats to make up the 60 votes needed to get the initiative across the finish line.
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