Senator Tommy Tuberville has dismissed as “woke propaganda” the claims from senior military figures that he is undermining national security by blocking military promotions in protest against the Pentagon‘s policies on abortion.
On Tuesday, Navy Secretary Carlos Del Toro accused the Alabama Republican of “aiding and abetting communist and other autocratic regimes” during an appearance on CNN. Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall, who was also on the broadcaster’s panel, claimed potential U.S. adversaries are “paying attention” to the policy which is “affecting how they view the United States and our military capabilities.”
It came after Del Toro, Kendall, and Army Secretary Christine Wormuth wrote a joint opinion piece for The Washington Post, published on Monday, arguing Tuberville’s block is “putting our national security at risk” and is “unfair to those military leaders and their families” who are impacted.
Tuberville has been blocking hundreds of military promotions for more than seven months in protest at the Pentagon offering servicewomen time off to have an abortion without loss of pay, in response to the Supreme Court overturning Roe. v. Wade in June 2022.
Typically senior military appointments pass the Senate with unanimous consent, but this requirement means they can be held up by a single senator if they wish to do so. To get around this, Senate leaders could bring the nominations to the floor one at a time by regular procedure. This would mean a longer process, however, sharply reducing what other business the legislature can attend to.
Tuberville hit back on X, formerly Twitter, on Wednesday describing the comments as “just another example of woke propaganda.” He wrote: “My holds are not affecting national security, no matter what national pundits are saying.”
In an attached video message, he said: “I’m not holding up any nominations from being approved. They can bring them one at a time to the floor, they have chosen not to do that.
“There’s no threat to readiness. The people that we need to be really worried about are colonels and majors and sergeants and privates, they’re the people that get ready to fight wars. The people up here in the Pentagon, I don’t know what they do every day but they’re more of giving advice.”
Federal agencies cannot pay for abortions for staff members except in cases of rape, incest, or if the life of the mother is at risk.
Mike Pence, the former vice-president and 2024 Republican presidential hopeful, has urged the U.S. Department of Defense to back down, commenting: “What I would say if I was working in Washington D.C. is, I’d look across the Potomac at the Pentagon and I’d say this can all be over tomorrow if you just stop undermining state pro-life laws.”
Newsweek has contacted the Department of Defense for comment by email.
Tuberville accused the Biden administration of “blatant patronage politics” after it was announced on July 31 that the headquarters of Space Command wouldn’t be moving to his state, as had been the original intention, but would instead remain in Colorado Springs, Colorado.