DOD looks to break Tuberville's nomination blockade in latest legal briefing

By Tony Bertuca / July 19, 2023 at 12:19 PM

Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed (D-RI) said today the panel has been briefed by the Defense Department on the legality of its policies that provide paid leave and reimbursed travel expenses for U.S. servicemembers seeking abortions, a matter at the center of Sen. Tommy Tuberville's (R-AL) ongoing blockade of hundreds of DOD nominees and promotions.

“After today’s briefing, there can be no doubt in my colleagues’ minds about the legality of the department’s policy,” Reed said in a statement. “I am even more convinced of the necessity and appropriateness of this policy, which is critical for the health of our military women, men and their families.”

Though Reed doesn't name Tuberville in his statement, he notes that anyone who continues to claim DOD’s policy is illegal is acting in “willful ignorance or stubborn hubris.”

Reed said DOD “laid out clear, plain facts to the committee.”

“The Department of Justice has examined the Pentagon’s policy and found it to be entirely legal, consistent with 40 years of precedent through both Republican and Democratic administrations,” he said. “The Department of Defense General Counsel has also examined the policy and found it to be entirely legal. The secretary of defense and every uniformed, apolitical member of the Joint Chiefs of Staff have endorsed this policy. The Senate Armed Services Committee has even considered legislation to repeal the department’s policy, and has rejected that legislation.”

The briefing comes as Tuberville has placed a blanket hold on all DOD nominations and promotions, saying he opposes the department’s abortion policies because he believes they violate the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal dollars to pay for abortions.

Tuberville, quoted in Politico today, said he thinks a compromise is possible.

“We’re going to work this out,” he said. “There’s got to be some give and take here.”

Later, however, multiple news outlets later reported that the briefing did not yield a compromise.

Tuberville’s months-long blockade has impacted the highest levels of the U.S. military, with the Marine Corps being without a Senate-confirmed commandant for the first time since 1859.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said Tuberville’s blanket hold has threatened “every domain” of national security.

The issue is also playing out on the Senate floor as lawmakers this week debate the annual defense authorization bill. The House passed a version of the bill last week that would abolish DOD’s current policy on providing leave and travel benefits to servicemembers seeking abortions.