U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Auburn) has been under constant fire for his continued holds on military confirmations over the Department of Defense’s (DOD) rule on funding certain costs for out-of-state abortions for service members and their dependents.
In October 2022, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin sent a memo decrying the overturning of Roe v. Wade in the U.S. Supreme Court decision of Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization.
The memo directed DOD officials to "ensure that service members and their families can access reproductive health care and to support Department of Defense health care providers concerned about potential risks while providing federally authorized care."
The VA released its rule in September 2022 and said it would begin offering abortions to servicemembers and certain dependents, regardless of the individual state's law.
Tuberville has refused to confirm the military appointees since December 2022.
In a recent opinion piece in the Washington Post, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro, Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth lambasted Tuberville for his continued holds, saying he was negatively affecting readiness and placing undue strain on the appointees and their families.
“Thus far, the hold has prevented the Defense Department from placing almost 300 of our most experienced and battle-tested leaders into critical posts around the world,” the secretaries wrote.
On Wednesday, Tuberville blanketly rejected the claim the holds affected readiness. He also says his holds only prevent confirming all appointees at once, and Senate leadership could confirm them individually if desired.
“This is all propaganda, first of all,” Tuberville said. “Let me say this, I’m not holding up any nominations from being approved. They could bring them one at a time to the floor. They have chosen not to do that.”
He continued, “They have already changed jobs. They are already doing the job. It’s just they’ve got interim on their name. There’s no threat to readiness. The people we need to be really worried about are the Colonels and Majors and Sergeants and Privates; they’re the people that get ready to fight wars. The people up here in the Pentagon, I don’t know what they do every day, but they're more for giving advice.”
Tuberville said that none of the secretaries who wrote the opinion have spoken to him at all.
“It disappoints me some of the language that they use because I am a United States Senator,” Tuberville continued. “I would never say anything like that about them in the newspaper. This should not be played out in the newspaper. If you need to visit me, call me or come see me. They know where I’m at. And they have not done that. I’ve not talked to any of them about this. It just goes to show you that this is all propaganda that’s been carried on by the Secretary of Defense and the President of the United States saying, ‘Y’all got to start putting pressure on this Senator.’ They don’t know what pressure is, okay? I don’t feel any pressure at all.”
In a CNN interview, Del Toro went as far as to claim that Tuberville was aiding and abetting communist and other autocratic regimes.”
Secretary of the Navy on Tuberville: I would have never imagined that one our own senators would be aiding and abetting communist and other autocratic regimes around the world. This is having a real negative impact. pic.twitter.com/S8CHAoHY4d— Acyn (@Acyn) September 5, 2023
“That’s an absurd statement about a United States Senator,” Tuberville said. “Somebody that’s been in this country for a long time. I believe in this country. I believe in our military. There’s nobody up here that’s stronger for national security than I am. But it does disappoint me that, again, as I said earlier, that none of these secretaries have called me other than Secretary of Defense Austin. I’ve not talked to any of them. They haven’t shown any concern whatsoever. They’ve just been pressured by the White House and from the Pentagon.”
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