WASHINGTON — U.S. Sen. Mazie Hirono, D-Hawaii, took center stage this week in a fiery Senate floor clash over fellow Senate Armed Services Committee member Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, and his ongoing one-man blockade of military promotions in protest against a new Department of Defense abortion policy.
Tuberville, the former Auburn University head football coach and first-term senator, has been blocking the promotions for weeks in an effort to force a repeal of a new DoD directive that allows for the department to provide leave and cover travel expenses for military personnel or family members who are stationed somewhere where abortion is not allowed to travel elsewhere for reproductive care services. The policy was adopted in response to the Supreme Court’s Dobbs decision last year that struck down Roe v. Wade and empowered states to establish their own laws regarding abortion.
At a committee hearing on Tuesday, U.S. Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin warned senators that Tuberville’s blanket refusal to consider some 160 pending senior military promotions could harm national security.
A day later, Hirono and fellow Democratic committee members Jack Reid of Rhode Island and Michael Bennett of Colorado, chastised Tuberville for politicizing a process that they said traditionally eschewed partisan politics in the interest of national security.
“In the Senate, we have a long history of bipartisan support for our armed services and our servicemembers,” Hirono said. “What is not usual is for one member of the Senate to put a hold on hundreds of nominees because, let’s face it, for political and ideological reasons.”
Hirono said Tuberville’s political gambit is putting the country at risk.
“Because of the Senator’s reckless posturing and unyielding stance, the promotions of more than 160 flag officers — men and women who have dedicated their lives to serving our country — are already being delayed. And these delays pose a grave and growing threat to our national security and the readiness of our troops,” Hirono said.
According to Hirono, 80,000 female service members are stationed in states where they cannot fully access reproductive care.
“To address this crisis, brought on by the Supreme Court’s decision, the DOD adopted a common-sense policy to allow those service members to travel to get the care they need, she said. “And to be clear, this policy does not cover the cost of abortions — we are not talking about taxpayer-paid abortions.”
Tuberville pushed back at his critics, alleging hypocrisy on their part by objecting to “184 generals” having their promotions held up while the U.S. military is facing a “recruiting crisis” in the tens of thousands.
Tuberville also argued about the broader implications of the abortion access policy at the heart of his dissent.
“My Democrat friends have absolutely zero evidence to show abortion makes our troops safer, stronger, or more lethal,” he said. “And let’s be clear about what we’re talking about. We’re not talking about access to abortion. We’re talking about taxpayer funding for travel, and extra paid time to get elective abortions. We already have a policy. We already have a policy about abortion, and it’s worked fine, but this policy includes spouses and dependents. We’re talking about taxpayer funding for somebody’s kids to get an abortion in another state. This has never been in the policy — until now.”