Since February, Alabama Republican Tommy Tuberville has been using a “senatorial hold” to block personnel moves by the U.S. military that require Senate confirmation. The media and Democrats are very upset that Tuberville is “waging an unprecedented campaign” and embroiling our vital national defense policy in the culture war.
Joe Biden claims that Republicans are “injecting into fundamental foreign policy decisions what in fact is a domestic social debate on social issues is bizarre,” which is “totally irresponsible.” While I don’t know much about Tommy Tuberville, the president has it backward. It was Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, not any Republican, who broke with 45 years of policy last year by instituting effective reimbursements for elective abortions by military and dependents. It is just as true to say, probably truer, that the president is the one holding up military promotions by unilaterally trashing policy that has been in place since 1980.
One of the implications of most stories covering the military hold debate illustrates the radically rightward shift and unprecedented fanaticism of Republican politics. This, too, is backward. Biden, who supported the Hyde Amendment, a law banning federal funds to pay for abortion, from 1976-2019, is an exemplar of the hard-left cultural lurch of the modern left.
Biden had not merely gone along with the Hyde Amendment as a means of compromising with Republicans back in the ’80s and ’90s. Until the past couple of decades, the abortion debate wasn’t neatly divided by party, and Biden, purportedly a devout Catholic, had to keep conservative working-class Delawarean voters happy. In 1994, the future president wrote a letter to a constituent bragging that he had voted against abortion funding on 50 occasions.
Like most things Biden says, this was probably untrue. But he did vote to save the Hyde Amendment repeatedly over the decades. Biden also voted against allowing Medicaid to fund abortions, even for victims of rape and incest. He supported a Jesse Helms amendment that would have prohibited using federal funds for abortions and abortion research or training. Biden voted numerous times to prohibit the Federal Employees Health Benefits program from funding abortions for government workers.
Indeed, Biden was constantly “injecting into fundamental foreign policy decisions what in fact is a domestic social debate on social issues.” He didn’t merely support banning public funding for abortion in the United States; he wrote an amendment to Foreign Assistance Act — for years, referred to as the “Biden amendment” — that barred U.S. foreign aid from being used in any research related to abortions. In 1984, Biden supported the “Mexico City policy,” banning federal funding for private organizations that provide abortion, advocate to decriminalize abortion, or expand abortion services.
Even on June 5, 2019, not long after his 2020 presidential campaign kickoff, Biden publicly reaffirmed his support for the Hyde Amendment. The very next day, after some criticism from primary opponents, the spineless candidate changed his position and “denounce[d]” the Hyde Amendment.
For what it’s worth, virtually every poll on the question of public funding for abortion, even ones that offer a misleading framing of the issue, find most Americans support banning taxpayer funding for abortions. Poll support doesn’t mean much in my book, but it does put to rest the idea that Tuberville is taking on some kind of fanatical position outside the mainstream.
Then again, today, Biden, the man who twice voted for partial-birth abortion bans and once supported overturning Roe v. Wade, backs state-funded abortions on demand from conception to crowning for any reason, including eugenics and sex-selective abortion. And, for the first time in history, he wants to implement that policy in the military. Bizarre, indeed.