A small group of Senate Republicans last week took to the Senate floor to try to break the hold on military promotions placed by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
Those GOP senators included Joni Ernst of Iowa, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Mitt Romney of Utah, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, and Todd Young of Indiana. They failed, however, because Tuberville stood firm for hours in his fight against the Biden administration’s unlawful abortion policy for service members.
Although Republican senators have for months muttered their disapproval of Tuberville’s strategy of holding high-level military promotions until the Defense Department reverses its policy, this skirmish was the first time his GOP colleagues had openly rebelled against him.
It won’t be the last. These same senators—and others—are plotting with Democrats to change the rules governing the Senate to undermine Tuberville and process the promotions. Watch for news of that in the days to come.
Why would Senate Republicans fight against one of their own, especially on something as fundamental as the fight to defend the unborn? Despite their espoused principles and campaign promises, life is simply not the top priority of many elected Republicans—at least, not like it is for their voters.
For many years, Republican politicians have promised voters they would cut federal funding from Planned Parenthood, the nation’s largest abortion provider, only to give in when Democrats draw the line. In those cases, these Republicans explain their lackluster resolve by giving the excuse that they must fund the Defense Department. Now these Senate Republicans are putting the military ahead of the unborn yet again.
It’s important to remember how we got here. In June 2022, the Supreme Court overruled its own 1973 decision in Roe v. Wade. In the weeks following the decision against abortion on demand, President Joe Biden ordered his administration to expand access to abortion through every possible means.
For example, the State Department produced a document titled “Reimagining PEPFAR,” describing the ways the agency would promote greater access to “sexual reproductive health, rights and services” (a form of Orwellian government-speak for abortion) through a program meant to combat AIDS in Africa.
The Department of Veterans Affairs announced that, for the first time, its facilities would offer abortion to veterans and their dependents. And the Defense Department issued new rules granting paid leave and travel and transportation allowances to cover the cost of an abortion.
None of these policies would have passed Congress had the Biden administration attempted to change the law, so it is using administrative rules and policy changes to advance an abortion agenda. None of this is legal.
In response to the administration, Tuberville announced he would put a hold on the promotion of several hundred high-ranking military officers until the Pentagon reversed course or Congress lawfully passed the administration policy as legislation.
What is a “hold”?
Military promotions above a certain rank require confirmation by the Senate, just like a high-ranking Cabinet official or Supreme Court nominee. Traditionally, these confirmations have been uncontroversial, and there are hundreds of them each year.
So instead of running through the entire confirmation process, which requires multiple votes and hours of floor time, senators grant “unanimous consent” or “UC” to bypass the rules and confirm the promotions as a group without a vote. However, as the name suggests, it requires unanimity to do this, and any individual senator can withhold his or her consent and stop the process.
For a year, Tuberville has kept his promise by doing just that—withholding consent. His fight has been one of the most heroic displays of leadership in the history of the pro-life movement.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., is so concerned that Tuberville’s actions will create a new standard that he has refused to put the military promotions on the floor for a vote.
Remember, Tuberville is denying consent to skip the rules. At any time, Schumer could file cloture on a nominee and have the Senate vote to confirm the officer. He won’t, because in his mind, that means Tuberville wins.
It is hard to take Tuberville’s critics seriously when they claim he’s harming military readiness when all they have to do to get the promotions done is follow their rules.
Pro-life voters, who are overwhelmingly people of faith, have grown accustomed to not expecting much from their representatives in Congress. Each year, whenever Republicans are in the majority, we get a going-nowhere, show vote on some minor, commonsense piece of legislation, such as the Born Alive Abortion Survivors Protection Act, which mandates that doctors must provide medical care to babies who miraculously survive late-term abortion, before Congress moves on to its real priorities.
The pro-life community doesn’t expect all 49 Republican senators to join Tuberville in his holds on military promotions, though credit is due to the handful of senators such as Mike Lee of Utah and Roger Marshall of Kansas who have publicly stood with him.
It is unacceptable that others among Tuberville’s fellow Republicans would be the ones to undermine him and advance the Biden administration’s cause of death. That can’t be tolerated.
In the days to come, pro-life people of faith should pay close attention to where their elected officials stand.
This commentary originally appeared in World magazine
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