Senate Republicans willfully betraying their voters on critically important policy issues is nothing new. Within the past few years, the upper chamber’s GOP members have helped Democrats increase federal spending, declare war on the institution of marriage, and crack down on Americans’ Second Amendment rights, to name a few.
So, it should come as no surprise to find out that several Senate Republicans are contemplating whether to side with their Democrat colleagues to kneecap Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s protest of the Pentagon’s unlawful abortion policy.
After the Defense Department implemented guidance earlier this year that uses U.S. taxpayer dollars to pay for service members’ travel expenses to get abortions, Tuberville began using his position on the Senate Armed Services Committee to slow-walk votes on President Biden’s military nominees. Rather than allow the committee to confirm a large number of military nominations “en masse,” the GOP senator’s protest forces the body to vote on each nomination one at a time. Tuberville has since come under attack from Senate Democrats, who — despite possessing the power to bring these nominations to the floor for individual confirmation — have baselessly claimed the Alabama senator’s holds harm “military readiness” and “national security.”
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Democrats have gone to great lengths to stymie efforts by House Republicans to force the Pentagon to reverse its unlawful abortion policy. The House-passed National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2024, for example, contained a provision to do just that. During a Thursday radio interview, Tuberville claimed he “had the votes in the Senate” to keep the provision in a Senate-negotiated version of the NDAA but that Schumer “took it out.”
In Congress, “you have really no say so about what goes on in any of these bills [unless] you’re in leadership,” Tuberville said. Schumer has since thrown his support behind a resolution passed by Democrats on the Senate Rules Committee earlier this month that — if approved by 60 senators on the full floor — would effectively allow their party to circumvent Tuberville’s protest and permit the Pentagon’s unlawful policy to go unchallenged.
With a slim 51-49 majority, Democrats would need Republican support to get the measure approved. Given recent remarks issued by several of their GOP colleagues, their wish may very well come true.
On Tuesday, Politico revealed at least eight Republicans are reportedly considering whether to side with Democrats to sidestep Tuberville’s protest. Among them are Sens. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Todd Young of Indiana, and Mitt Romney of Utah, all of whom went to the Senate floor in recent weeks to attack Tuberville for using his position to stand for life.
Also included in Politico’s “to watch” list are Sens. Susan Collins of Maine, Thom Tillis of North Carolina, and Lisa Murkowski of Alaska. Collins and Tillis confirmed to Politico they are considering supporting the proposed rule change while Murkowski has previously criticized Tuberville over his holds.
The Fight Ahead
With the prospects of being betrayed by his GOP colleagues looming, Tuberville is contemplating how best to move forward with his protest. The Alabama senator confirmed during a Thursday presser that he’s had several meetings in recent days with his GOP colleagues on the matter and is focused on “getting the promotions over with.” He also expressed skepticism about whether Schumer has the votes necessary to change the Senate rules.
“At the end of the day … I’m not going to be pushed and shoved and hurried on this because we’ve taken on our time with it [and] we’ve done it the right way,” Tuberville said.
With the Pentagon refusing to budge, the only way for Republicans to strike down the unlawful and immoral policy is for GOP House leadership to ensure a repeal of the guidance is included in the final version of the 2024 NDAA. In a statement provided to The Federalist, Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas — a vocal supporter of Tuberville’s protest — commended Alabama’s senior senator for his stand and called out House Republicans for leaving him “dangling by walking away from forcing the good policies on NDAA negotiations, including the abortion travel ban.”
Roy recently raised concerns that House GOP leadership may be folding on critically important issues relevant to the NDAA, such as FISA surveillance, which was used to illegally surveil former President Trump’s 2016 presidential campaign. Sources who reportedly spoke with Fox News told the outlet that “congressional leaders are discussing punting [the fight over FISA reauthorization] until early 2024 by attaching a temporary extension of FISA to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).”
“[I]f you take FISA and you add it to the NDAA, and we know that the NDAA is going to be stripped of our fixes on our side on abortion tourism, transgender surgeries, DEI, critical race theory … you’re using the fear of the security of this country under FISA collection of data, and you’re using that extension to pass a crap NDAA bill,” Roy said. In his remarks to The Federalist, the Texas congressman separately blasted Senate Republicans “who campaign on being ‘pro-life'” for “selling out” Tuberville and “walking away from fighting against taxpayer funding of abortion so they can say they are ‘pro military.’”
House Speaker Mike Johnson did not respond to The Federalist’s request for comment on whether he intends to ensure a provision repealing the Pentagon’s abortion travel policy is included in the NDAA for fiscal year 2024. The GOP speaker also did not answer whether he would support an NDAA bill that fails to include a provision repealing the Pentagon’s policy or whether he would encourage his House Republican colleagues to support such a measure.