IE 11 is not supported. For an optimal experience visit our site on another browser.

Ron DeSantis defends Sen. Tommy Tuberville's blockade on military promotions

Tuberville, R-Ala., has blocked Defense Department promotions for months over his opposition to the Pentagon's new abortion policy.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis during a town hall event in Hollis, N.H., Tuesday, June 27, 2023.
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at a town hall event in Hollis, N.H., on June 27.Josh Reynolds / AP file

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis on Thursday defended Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s blockade on hundreds of military promotions in opposition to the Defense Department’s abortion policy.

In an interview on "The Hugh Hewitt Show," DeSantis was asked whether Tuberville, R-Ala., should stop holding up military nominees over a new Pentagon policy that covers travel expenses for service members who need to go out of state to have abortions.

"No, I don’t. ... They are funding abortion tourism, which is not an appropriate thing for the military to be doing," DeSantis said. "So I think our Republicans in the Congress should just take a stand on this. The [Pentagon] should stand down."

On the Senate floor Wednesday, Tuberville blocked a seventh attempt by Sen. Michael Bennet, D-Colo., to approve a backlog of military promotions that has persisted for months.

While Tuberville has suggested that the Pentagon's policies have hurt recruitment and retention, White House National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby argued Monday that ending the abortion policy would have an “extremely, extremely significant impact” on military recruiting and retention and that it be likely to lead to the armed forces’ losing “talent, important talent.”

Army Secretary Christine Wormuth said Thursday that the Defense Department was unlikely to change the policy. "It’s the right thing to do, and I don’t think we’re going to change it," she told NBC News.

DeSantis, the only 2024 GOP presidential candidate who is a military veteran, laid out his policy proposal on reshaping the military this week and pledged to "rip the woke out" of the Pentagon. In Thursday's interview, he said that if he is elected president, he would eliminate the Defense Department's abortion policy on his first day in office.

"We have all these other problems in our military. You know, we need more ammunition. We need more recruiting. We need all these other things, and yet they’re focusing on abortion tourism. So that’ll be an easy thing for me, day one as commander-in-chief," he said. "That policy will go out the window, and we’re going to focus on mission accomplishment again."

While DeSantis is on the same page with many Senate Republicans who oppose the Pentagon's policy, not all of Tuberville's GOP colleagues approve of his tactics. Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., said of the blockade last week, "We need to end that."

There may be a resolution on the horizon. Tuberville has said he wants a “standalone vote” on the policy, and Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Wednesday that Democrats would not block a vote on the policy, adding that it was the "responsibility" of Republican leaders “to get him to stop.”

DeSantis has not made abortion restrictions a major focus of his campaign. In April, before he announced his White House bid, he quietly signed legislation that would ban most abortions after six weeks in Florida.

Asked about Florida's ban in a Fox News interview clip that aired Thursday, DeSantis applauded states that had passed restrictions but also said: "We have a big diverse country. I acknowledge that.”

“And I’m not suggesting that somehow New York is necessarily going to follow Iowa’s lead on that.” he said. “I think you’re going to see some differences.”