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Taking on the military caste

Sen. Tuberville’s pro-life stand exposes the politicization of the military

U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., speaks with the press in Bedminster, N.J., on June 13. Associated Press/Photo by Ted Shaffrey

Taking on the military caste
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If ever there was a recent example of a Mr. Smith going to Washington and taking a relatively narrow, principled stand, it would be Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s intrepid battle against the Pentagon because of its new policy to encourage military servicewomen to obtain abortions. This is turning out to be a titanic struggle.

In the wake of the Dobbs decision, the Biden Administration changed longstanding policy and began granting official leave and taxpayer-funded support for servicewomen to travel to states where they can obtain abortions. Sen. Tuberville responded by placing a “hold” on all the military promotions that the Senate routinely expedites. Thanks to the courage and endurance of Sen. Tuberville, what began as a minor row has now escalated into a massive political fight against the entire defense establishment unused to the temerity of a single senator representing his constituents and the cause of life so vigorously.

The fight began because the Pentagon changed its policy in violation of the law and a longstanding bipartisan consensus, associated with the Hyde Amendment, which stipulates that taxpayers should not subsidize the ending of human life thru the morally unconscionable practice of abortions. This consensus has endured for decades even throughout Democrat presidencies and congressional majorities. The change amounted to a conscious decision by the Biden Administration to politicize the business of defending this country in order to reward its political supporters and offend the consciences of pro-lifers across the country.

And it is exactly the sort of policy change that has historically has led concerned senators to use their procedural might to slow down the consideration of the executive branch’s nominees. To be clear, although described as an insurmountable “hold,” no senator can unilaterally stop a nominee. But with its non-majoritarian filibuster and rules that prioritize debate, the modern Senate hinges on the ability to move procedurally with unanimous consent. A hold is simply a message to the leaders of the Senate that they cannot move a nominee (or legislation) by unanimous consent. In short, every one of these military promotions could be scheduled, debated, and passed, if Senate leaders were willing to prioritize the scarce resource that is Senate floor time.

As Sen. Tuberville continues to hold firm, much now hinges on whether “pro-life” senators and the House congressional majority rally to his banner

In fact, this is the subtlety of the corruption that Tuberville has exposed. It is not just a fight about whether taxpayers, through the Pentagon of all places, should be expected to fund abortions or access to abortions. The national security establishment wants military promotions to be exempt from the constitutional order where the Senate provides advice and consent. For decades, military leaders have grown accustomed to the Senate serving as no more than a rubber stamp on the Pentagon’s desired military promotions, approved “en bloc” by unanimous consent, instead of carefully considering each in the manner envisioned by the Founding Fathers. Early progressives thought the Constitution to be entirely inefficient around the turn of the 20th Century; modern day descendants have simply devised conventions around these separations of power.

Heaven forbid our lawmakers have a debate on what specific officers think about enshrining the principles of Critical Race Theory in our military or the extent to which their own “nonpolitical” geopolitical views track with the Founders’ expectations for a constitutional Republic. You see, there must not be a new precedent that these individuals are anything other than a military caste. That is why Sen. Schumer, on behalf of the Biden Administration, is insisting on a winner-take-all approach by refusing to work around Tuberville’s hold, and it is also why so few Senate Republicans, many of them claiming to be pro-life, have lifted a finger to help him. The national security establishment must be protected at all costs.

Yet in their obstinance, our military leaders and the Biden Administration have turned this situation into their own political stunt that could easily be overturned into a proxy fight over the politicization of our military. They have turned it into a debate about whether our military is being used as an institution to allow, cheer, even browbeat, a perverse cultural agenda that disregards life down the throats of the American people.

As Sen. Tuberville continues to hold firm, much now hinges on whether “pro-life” senators and the House congressional majority rally to his banner in support or join the Biden Administration in making his convictional stand the issue and denouncing him personally. Last week revealed some progress in the House passing an amendment to the annual defense bill to overturn the Pentagon’s abortion subsidies, but many of Sen. Tuberville’s Senate colleagues are against him, some in public and others in private. At the very least, we need a good explanation by Senate republicans who have made their pro-life convictions quite clear. The nation deserves an honest debate on this issue.

Russell Vought

Russ Vought is the president and founder of the Center for Renewing America and Citizens for Renewing America. Russ served as the 42nd director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Donald Trump. Prior to serving in the Trump administration, Russ spent nearly 20 years working in Washington, D.C., in Congress and with grassroots and public policy organizations. Russ graduated from Wheaton College in 1998 and from George Washington University Law School in 2004.

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