Twenty-seven Senate Republicans, including Sen. Dan Sullivan but not Sen. Lisa Murkowski, sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin Monday, demanding a reversal of an abortion travel policy that the senators say is in violation of the constitution, since it was made without congressional approval.
“You have broken your promise to the American people not to politicize the military, and your actions have harmed and threaten to further harm institutional norms within our democracy,” the senators wrote. “All legislative power is vested in Congress, and the Executive branch is responsible for implementing and enforcing the law,” they explain. “While the Department may issue regulations, it can only do so under the laws authorized and enacted by Congress. But, Congress never authorized the Department to expend funds to facilitate abortions and, until the Policy was issued, the military never facilitated abortions except in cases of rape, incest, or where the life of the mother would be endangered if the unborn child were carried to term,” the letter said.
“Now taxpayers—many of whom have deeply-held religious and moral objections to abortions—are on the hook to facilitate the very abortions they fundamentally oppose,” the senators said. “Indeed, a Marist poll in January 2023 found that 60% of Americans strongly oppose the use of taxpayer dollars to pay for an abortion, consistent with polls taken throughout recent years.”
After the U.S. Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade, and send the abortion question back to the states, Sec. Austin ordered the Defense Department to pay for travel so military members could receive abortions in another state, if they were stationed in a state that prohibited or limited abortions.
“Rather than respect the Supreme Court’s decision, you decided to engage the Department, and our men and women in uniform, in a policy debate properly reserved for the legislature,” the senators said.
The Republicans also note that the reason Sen. Tommy Tuberville placed holds on military appointees in protest over that policy is due to Austin’s overreach.
“Our men and women in uniform deserve Senate-confirmed leadership but the current situation began with your original sin of promulgating the policy,” the letter said.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., could bring the nominees to the floor for a vote at any time, but he has not done so.
“Much has been made in the press about one senator’s decision to try and stop your egregious wrongs, without acknowledging the Senate majority leader’s refusal to bring general and flag officer nominations to the floor until forced to by Republicans,” the senators said. “Seeking to circumvent the Senate prerogative of the informal ‘hold’ practice without addressing the underlying causes—the novel policy and subsequent refusal of the majority to bring these nominees to the floor—will not ultimately reconcile this matter.”
Austin’s actions could create a toxic precedent with lasting negative effects on future military nominations, the senators said.
Sen. Ted Budd, R-N.C. and 26 other Republicans signed the letter, including Katie Britt of Alabama, Dan Sullivan of Alaska, Tom Cotton and John Boozman of Arkansas, Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Braun of Indiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Chuck Grassley and Joni Ernst of Iowa, Roger Wicker and Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Eric Schmitt of Missouri, Pete Ricketts and Deb Fischer of Nebraska, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Markwayne Mullin of Oklahoma, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, John Thune and Mike Rounds of South Dakota, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, John Cornyn and Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Lee of Utah, and Cynthia Lummis and John Barrasso of Wyoming.