Tuberville, White House Dig In as Veterans Group Launches Attack Ad Against the Senator’s Anti-Abortion Protest

A White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, said that providing ‘healthcare and reproductive care specifically’ to servicewomen ‘is a foundational, sacred obligation.’

AP/J. Scott Applewhite
Senator Tuberville at the Capitol March 28, 2023. AP/J. Scott Applewhite

A veterans organization is placing an attack ad against Senator Tuberville over his one-man stand against the military policy of reimbursing members for travel for abortion care that is holding up defense department appointments.

The new ad, placed by VoteVets, attacks Mr. Tuberville for single-handedly holding up promotions for top military brass and “leaving mission-critical positions to go vacant.”

“Tommy Tuberville — who never served in uniform himself — has himself held hostage hundreds of military assignments just to force his social agenda on women in the ranks,” the speaker in the ad says.

Mr. Tuberville has for months been blocking the confirmation of appointments and promotions by preventing the Senate from taking its usual “unanimous consent” votes, which allow promotions and appointments to be confirmed in large groups.

Although there is a procedural workaround that would allow the Senate to approve appointments one by one, Majority Leader Schumer has not been willing to take it because he does not want to set the precedent of allowing a single senator to derail business in the Senate.

According to the chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, confirming each of the 251 nominations Mr. Tuberville has stonewalled individually would take some 84 days in the Senate and prevent any other business from being taken up.

An analysis by the Pentagon also found that if Mr. Tuberville continues his blockade, it will affect some 650 appointments by the end of the year.

As pressure mounts against Mr. Tuberville from veterans groups, a White House national security spokesman, John Kirby, dug in on the Pentagon’s position, saying that travel for abortion should be covered. “You go where you’re told, that’s the way orders work,” he said.

“Whether its about female service members … or female family members being able to count on the kinds of healthcare and reproductive care specifically that they need to serve that is a foundational, sacred obligation,” Mr. Kirby said.

He added that a rollback of the current Pentagon policy would likely affect recruiting and retention, saying funding travel for reproductive care is “just the right darn thing to do for people who raise their hand and agree to serve in the military.”

“What happens if you get assigned to a state like Alabama, which has a pretty restrictive abortion law in place? And you’re concerned about your reproductive care? What do you do? Do you say ‘no’ and you get out?” Mr. Kirby said to reporters. “Well, some people may decide to do that, and what does that mean? That means we lose talent, important talent.”

In the House, Republicans addressed the issue of funding the travel of those receiving abortion care in other states in their National Defense Authorization Act. The amendment was one of a litany of conservative amendments passed narrowly by House Republicans aimed at addressing conservative cultural priorities.

Alongside the amendment that would ban the defense department funding travel for reproductive care, Republicans added a measure that would specifically ban service members from contacting the Military Religious Freedom Foundation or its leadership. 

The Military Religious Freedom Foundation is an organization of active duty, veteran, and civilian personnel that mostly organizes to prevent officials from instituting explicitly Christian religious policies in the American military. More generally, it advocates for a secular military. 

The Republican amendment, sponsored by Congressman Mike Turner, would ban service members from contacting the group and commanders from taking “any action or mak[ing] any decision as a result of any claim, objection or protest” conducted by the group “without the authority of the Secretary of Defense.”

In conversation with the Military Times, the group’s president, Michael Weinstein, said that the NDAA provision is a violation of the First Amendment.

“Members of the military have the right under the First Amendment to free speech, as curtailed appropriately by the Supreme Court; they also have the right to petition their government for grievances,” Mr. Weinstein told Military Times. “Both of those have been viciously violated today by the actions of the far-right Christian nationalists in Congress.”

The New York Sun

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