Rep. McCaul: Sen. Tuberville ‘Paralyzing’ Military With Abortion Policy Standoff

Ryan Morgan
By Ryan Morgan
September 11, 2023Congress
Rep. McCaul: Sen. Tuberville ‘Paralyzing’ Military With Abortion Policy Standoff
Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) listens to discussion about the American military withdrawal in Afghanistan, during a meeting with House Republicans, including those who served in the military, in Washington, on Aug. 30, 2021. (Drew Angerer/Getty Images)

A top Republican House lawmaker is breaking ranks with Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), accusing the senator of “paralyzing” the Pentagon with his ongoing hold on military nominations.

Mr. Tuberville has maintained a hold on military promotions for months in opposition to a Department of Defense (DOD) policy that reimburses service members for abortion-related travel. In an interview with CNN on Sunday, Rep. Michael McCaul (R-Texas) raised his concerns over how military readiness has been impacted by Mr. Tuberville’s method of protesting the DOD abortion policy.

“This is paralyzing the Department of Defense—the idea that one man in the Senate can hold this up for months,” Mr. McCaul, who chairs the House Foreign Affairs Committee, told CNN host Jake Tapper.

Mr. Tuberville’s hold on military promotions blocks the Senate from being able to approve large batches of nominees through unanimous consent procedures. The Senate can still confirm nominees through its normal procedural rules, but this makes for a slower process. There are currently more than 300 military officers awaiting a Senate decision on their promotions, including three leaders of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and in other command positions.

Current federal laws codified under the Hyde Amendment prohibit federal funds from going toward abortions, except in cases where a pregnancy threatens the life of the mother or a pregnancy comes about as a result of rape or incest. The DOD contends that its policy of supporting abortion-related travel is distinct enough to skirt the Hyde Amendment rules, but Mr. Tuberville disagrees and has vowed to maintain his hold until either the DOD retracts the policy or Congress acts to change the laws.

“I think that is a national security problem and a national security issue,” Mr. McCaul continued. “I really wish he would reconsider this.”

While criticizing the Alabama senator’s hold on military nominations, Mr. McCaul endorsed efforts in the Republican-controlled House to pass a provision in the 2024 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that repeals the DOD’s abortion policy.

The provision to reverse the DOD’s abortion policy would still need to approval of the Democrat-controlled Senate, which is unlikely to support repealing the abortion policy. Still, Mr. McCaul expressed confidence that the divided houses of Congress will “work out this abortion issue.”

Tuberville Deflects Criticism

While Mr. McCaul criticized Mr. Tuberville’s Senate hold, the Alabama senator’s office reiterated that he alone could not prevent military nominations and noted that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-N.Y.) has thus far refused to schedule votes for individual military nominees.

“No one can stop Chuck Schumer from holding votes on these nominations. He just doesn’t want to,” Steven Stafford, a spokesperson for Mr. Tuberville, told CNN.

Other Republican senators have also put the onus on the Senate majority to handle the process for approving military promotions and nominations.

“I think the majority leader should take the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff nomination to the floor as we do our top Cabinet officials,” Sen. Roger Wicker (R-Miss.), the ranking member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, told NBC News last week.

Sen. John Cornyn (R-Texas) similarly said the military nominations process is “entirely within Sen. Schumer’s control” and the Senate majority leader could “break the logjam.”

In his comments to CNN, Mr. Stafford also argued that the delay in approving nominees for top military positions is not so serious a concern because those roles are being filled by officials serving in an acting capacity.

“No jobs are open or going undone right now,” Mr. Stafford said.

NTD News reached out to Mr. Tuberville’s office for additional comment but did not receive a response by the time this article was published.

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