Tuberville, Austin call fails to yield breakthrough on military holds

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin and Sen. Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.) spoke Tuesday but failed to make any progress on breaking the logjam of nearly 300 military promotions being held up by the senator, Tuberville said.

According to a Tuberville spokesperson, the two officials had “another cordial conversation” and spoke about the planned Senate briefing with Defense officials to discuss the Pentagon’s abortion policy that sparked the fight. The policy allows the department to cover travel expenses for military members to seek abortion care.

The Pentagon and Democrats have been trying to move him off the holds.

“Coach looks forward to the briefing and to further discussions to resolve the situation,” the spokesperson added.

Tuberville told reporters at the Capitol, however, that the talks have yet to yield any progress toward a resolution.

“No, not yet,” Tuberville said. “None. … Just cordial [conversations]. Everybody gives their position and then, ‘Well, let’s talk again.’”

A Defense Department official confirmed the call had happened and said Austin “underscored to Sen. Tuberville the mounting disruption the holds were inflicting on military families, who have already sacrificed so much.”

“Secretary Austin has also explained to Sen. Tuberville, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, that his blanket holds were increasingly harming U.S. military readiness and national security at a critical geopolitical moment,” the official added.

Tuberville said he was hopeful that the annual National Defense Authorization Act could codify a reversal of the Pentagon’s policy after the House included such language in their version last week, which he said he was pleased with. Senate Democrats are not expected to include that provision in the upper chamber’s version of the bill. 

“I like what the House has in [their version]. I just don’t know about ours,” Tuberville said.

Ellen Mitchell contributed.

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