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Lee backs Tuberville’s hold on promotions over Pentagon abortion policy — as other Republicans push back

Lee defended Tuberville’s blockade of military promotions during the very-early hours of Thursday morning

SHARE Lee backs Tuberville’s hold on promotions over Pentagon abortion policy — as other Republicans push back
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., questions Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., questions Navy Adm. Lisa Franchetti during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing on her nomination for reappointment to the grade of admiral and to be Chief of Naval Operations on Sept. 14, 2023, on Capitol Hill in Washington. The Senate circumvented a hold by Tuberville on Thursday and confirmed Franchetti to lead the Navy, making her the first woman to be a Pentagon service chief and the first female member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff.

Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

Sen. Tommy Tuberville continued to block military nominations, with the support of Sen. Mike Lee, even as they received pushback from their GOP colleagues during an early morning effort to push through the nominations on Thursday.

Lee stood by Tuberville, R-Ala., even as other Republicans criticized him, in opposing the Pentagon’s policy that allows active-duty service members to receive a reimbursement for abortion-related travel. 

“The U.S. Department of Defense is supposed to kill America’s enemies, not her babies,” Lee said in his remarks on the floor Thursday morning, according to a video posted by Tuberville on X, formerly known as Twitter. “Regardless of how you feel about pro-life issues, you’ve got to accept the fact that Americans by a margin of three out of four are not willing to tolerate the expenditure of U.S. taxpayer funds for abortions.”

Lee, R-Utah, said while he wouldn’t have necessarily chosen to use the same approach as Tuberville to oppose the Pentagon’s policy, he wanted to show support for the Alabama senator.

“Notwithstanding the fact that it’s not the particular tactic that I would have chosen, he’s chosen a tactic that’s legitimate, that he has every right to deploy under the rules of the Senate,” said Lee.

After the Senate session ended early Thursday morning, the Utah senator wrote about his defense of Tuberville on social media.

“It’s nearly 4:00 am in Washington, and I’m walking home after a long night of voting, and then defending (Tuberville) from hours of misguided attacks,” Lee wrote on X. “The hours are sometimes long. I love my job!”

Even with Tuberville’s blockade, the Senate is able to confirm military nominations through a lengthier process, and confirmed three promotions earlier in November. But Tuberville has blocked the ability to fast-track the confirmations.

Over the course of Thursday morning’s debate, Lee posted more than 30 times on X. In some posts, he criticized fellow Republican Sens. Dan Sullivan of Arkansas and Joni Ernst of Iowa, who were advocating for the nominations to be brought for a vote but said they opposed the Pentagon’s abortion-related policy.

“There is no doubt these blanket holds are creating readiness challenges, not just for flag officers. We’re starting to hear colonels and lieutenant colonels who are being stuck. This is impacting the entire military,” Sullivan said.

Prior to this month, Sullivan, a colonel in the U.S. Marines Corps Reserve, was helping Tuberville petition against the Pentagon’s policy but has since changed his stance.

Meanwhile, Ernst’s stance was simple: “I am pro-military and pro-life,” she said. But added she had concerns about national security risks and military readiness, as the Iowa Capital Dispatch.

Lee said that Sullivan viewed the generals and admirals as the ones “being punished” through the confirmation delays, adding, “I wish he’d acknowledge who’s punishing them. It’s not (Tuberville).”

Lee, a federalist who believes abortion regulation should be left to the states, has been Tuberville’s staunchest supporter and instead says President Joe Biden is at fault, since he has the power to change the Pentagon’s policy, as does Secretary of Dense Lloyd Austin, he added.

In one post, Lee said if Republicans spent half their energy on fighting Biden instead of Tuberville, the issue would have been resolved.

Prior to the series of votes on Thursday, Lee pointed to 10 U.S. Code 1093, which prohibits the Pentagon from using funds to perform abortions on X.

“The sole purpose of this policy is to thwart federal law and facilitate abortions using taxpayer dollars,” he said, asking why some Republicans are against Tuberville for standing up for the law.

The Pentagon introduced the policy in March 2023, less than a year after the Supreme Court decided to strike down Roe v. Wade.

According to the Deseret News, Democrats proposed a resolution that would advance over 350 military nominations, but it requires a supermajority to pass. This would override Tuberville’s nine-month-long blockade, and would be a temporary change in rules.

“We still hold out some small hope that in the next little, short while our Republican colleagues can persuade Sen. Tuberville to back off,” said Schumer in a press release on Wednesday.

While Lee said he believes lawmakers “tend to elevate — not denigrate — the Senate by passionately debating issues on the Senate floor,” he did acknowledge that Tuberville’s strategy is “not ideal.”

“I want to be clear: The particular strategy deployed here is not mine. It’s that of a dear friend and colleague who is here with me tonight,” he said.

“He’s chosen a tactic that is legitimate and he has every right to deploy under the rules of the Senate, rules that go back nearly two-and-a-half centuries in order to protect the individual rights of each senator.”