Twenty-seven Senate Republicans sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Monday, demanding that he rescind an abortion travel policy that they claim violates U.S. law by circumventing Congress. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., has vocally opposed this policy.
“You have broken your promise to the American people not to politicize the military, and your actions have harmed and threaten to further harm institutional norms within our democracy,” the senators write in the letter, exclusively provided first to The Daily Signal.
“All legislative power is vested in Congress, and the Executive branch is responsible for implementing and enforcing the law,” they explain. “While the Department [of Defense] may issue regulations, it can only do so under the laws authorized and enacted by Congress. But, Congress never authorized the Department to expend funds to facilitate abortions and, until the Policy was issued, the military never facilitated abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother would be endangered if the unborn child were carried to term.”
“Now taxpayers—many of whom have deeply-held religious and moral objections to abortions—are on the hook to facilitate the very abortions they fundamentally oppose,” the senators add. “Indeed, a Marist poll in January 2023 found that 60% of Americans strongly oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for an abortion, consistent with polls taken throughout recent years.”
The senators faulted a June 28, 2022 memorandum Austin sent to senior leaders at the DOD in the wake of the Supreme Court’s decision to overturn the abortion precedent Roe v. Wade (1973) in Dobbs v. Jackson Women’s Health Organization. In the memo, Austin directed DOD leaders to pay for official travel for active-duty personnel to receive abortions outside of the state in which they are stationed.
“Rather than respect the Supreme Court’s decision, you decided to engage the Department, and our men and women in uniform, in a policy debate properly reserved for the legislature,” the senators write.
Austin argued that Dobbs had “readiness, recruiting, and retention implications for the Force,” but the senators write that DOD officials noted that the department has no data to support the claim, and that only a few servicemembers or dependents have used the policy.
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The Republicans also note that Tuberville placed holds on military appointees in protest over that policy.
“Our men and women in uniform deserve Senate-confirmed leadership but the current situation began with your original sin of promulgating the policy,” they write.
The Republicans explained that legacy media outlets have presented Tuberville’s holds, which merely prevent the Senate from confirming military appointees by unanimous voice vote and require the body to pass each nominee with a separate vote, as extreme. Yet much of the coverage has ignored the fact that Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., could bring the nominees to the floor for a vote at any time.
Democrats in the Senate have sought to change the rules to block Tuberville’s holds, rather than bring officers up for a separate vote.
“Much has been made in the press about one senator’s decision to try and stop your egregious wrongs, without acknowledging the Senate majority leader’s refusal to bring general and flag officer nominations to the floor until forced to by Republicans,” they write. “Seeking to circumvent the Senate prerogative of the informal ‘hold’ practice without addressing the underlying causes—the novel policy and subsequent refusal of the majority to bring these nominees to the floor—will not ultimately reconcile this matter.”
“It could create a toxic precedent with lasting negative effects on future military nominations,” they warn.
Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C., led the effort. Twenty-six other Republicans signed the letter: Katie Britt of Alabama, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Tom Cotton and John Boozman of Arkansas, Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Braun of Indiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Pete Ricketts and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Thune and Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, and Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso of Wyoming.
LifeNews Note: Elizabeth Troutman is a member of the Young Leaders Program at The Heritage Foundation. Tyler O’Neil is managing editor of The Daily Signal and the author of “Making Hate Pay: The Corruption of the Southern Poverty Law Center.” This column originally appeared at Daily Signal.
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