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Tuberville open to ending military holds through compromises

Nine months into U.S. Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade on military nominations over the Pentagon’s abortion policy, the senior senator from Alabama revealed some potential compromises he’d be willing to make in order to end the holds.

One option, Tuberville said in a phone call with members of the press Wednesday, is to instead shift the cost burden of covering service members’ expenses for out-of-state abortions from the Pentagon to private funding sources.

“The Pentagon could use private money instead of taxpayer money,” he said. “Private organizations could step up and say ‘hey, we’ll pay for the travel;’ we don’t want taxpayers to pay for this, and it would work out perfectly.”

Traditionally, military confirmations have been mostly uncontroversial votes in the U.S. Senate. In February, however, Tuberville began objecting to every nomination brought to the Senate floor – which are usually done in batches – as a means to put pressure on the Pentagon to reverse its new policy of covering travel expenses for service members traveling out of state for abortions.

While President Joe Biden, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and others have harshly criticized Tuberville’s military holds, both of whom said they compromise military readiness, it wasn’t until recently that some of his Republican colleagues began to join in on the condemnation of Tuberville’s strategy.

Another potential compromise Tuberville said he’d be willing to make to end his military holds was through the annual defense policy bill, known as the National Defense Authorization Act.

In the Republican-controlled House version of the NDAA, several restrictions were included on covering costs for abortions. In the Senate, which is controlled by Democrats, such restrictions are absent. 

Tuberville proposed that were the abortion restrictions to be preserved after the two versions of the NDAA are consolidated, he would end his holds.

“The NDAA is an opportunity because (the abortion restrictions are) already in the House (version),” he said. 

“Next week, maybe 10 days, even before Thanksgiving, we’ll bring this up here to the Senate, and we’ll have a conference (to) match our NDAA with theirs. Now, in (the House’s) NDAA, they have language that prohibits what we’re talking about; we don’t, and so we’re gonna have to fight to get that put into the Senate NDAA. If it passes, then it’ll go to the White House and Joe Biden will vote for the defense budget.”

Other options Tuberville offered were for the Pentagon to immediately reverse its policy on covering abortion-related expenses, as outlined in a memo he shared with his Republican colleagues on Tuesday.

Tuberville said that despite his proposals to end his holds, neither the Pentagon or Biden would negotiate an outcome with him.

“I can’t get any conversation or negotiations with the Pentagon or from the White House… they could care less about this,” he said. “They could care less about the military, because if they did we would have already had this worked out. And they surely don’t care about the unborn; that’s just the way it works up here.”

Biden has signaled multiple times that he would veto the defense budget were the abortion restrictions included, among other things. Still, Tuberville said he’ll continue to push for his proposals, something he said wouldn’t happen overnight.

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