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On ending military holds, Tuberville to hold out for defense spending bill

Following several reports that Sen. Tommy Tuberville was prepared to end his nearly year-long hold on military nominations over abortion policy, the senior senator from Alabama on Wednesday said the holds would likely continue, at least until the annual defense spending bill is adopted.

Tuberville began his blockage of military nominations in February as a means to coerce the Pentagon to reverse its new abortion policy, which covers expenses for service members traveling for abortions. Ten months and more than 370 blocked nominations later, and Democrats have moved to end Tuberville’s holds through introducing a rule change in the Senate.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said on Monday that he intends to introduce the rule change to the Senate soon, but did not specify a date. As of Wednesday, that resolution has yet to be introduced.

Tuberville previously expressed concerns that some of his Republican colleagues may vote in favor of the resolution – which requires 60 votes – thereby ending his holds, and with them, his leverage against the Pentagon’s abortion policy.

During a press call Wednesday morning, however, Tuberville seemed to shift his hopes for victory toward the National Defense Authorization Act.

“I can’t control when (Schumer) puts his new resolution on the floor, I can’t control how the Republicans vote, I wish nobody would vote for it if he does put it on the floor,” Tuberville said. 

In the Republican-controlled House version of the NDAA, several restrictions are included that severely limit taxpayer dollars from being used for abortion and abortion-related expenses. Tuberville said he would end his holds were those provisions preserved in the final version of the bill.

“I would like to get this over with, we’re continuing to work from behind the scenes to try to keep this abortion policy in the House version of the NDAA where it can stay in the Senate and where we can get it voted on and passed, I would immediately drop the holds.”

Democratic leaders, however, have largely vowed to reject an NDAA that includes such restrictions, as has President Joe Biden, who vowed to veto the bill were it to include the restrictions.

Still, Tuberville said he hopes the abortion restrictions will be preserved in the final version of the NDAA, and that he hopes the bill will help bring an end to his holds “in the very near future.”

On the impending introduction of a rule change in the Senate that would allow members to circumvent his military holds, Tuberville said he was still unsure whether enough Republicans would vote for the measure.

“I don’t want to change the rules of the Senate, that would be devastating down the line, and I’m a little afraid at this point that we’ve got too many Republicans that would vote on the Democratic side,” he said. 

“Hopefully this doesn’t happen. There’s no reason to be in a hurry, I’d like to get it done in the very near future, but we’ll see what happens.”

As pressure for Tuberville to end his holds has grown, including from some of his own Republican colleagues, the senator noted that whether or not his holds will be successful in changing the Pentagon’s abortion policy, the tactic has proved successful in forcing Democrats to address his concerns.

“I want to get these people promoted, it’s not their fault that this is happening, but it’s the only thing we have on the minority side (of the Senate), putting a hold on something to get people to listen,” he said. “Now I’ve got the Democrats listening, (but) am I going to be able to get it changed? I don’t know; they’ve got the power, but now we’ve got their attention.”

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