Military promotions stalemate drags on as Senator Tuberville digs in


WASHINGTON — Dozens of military promotions continue to languish in the Senate as Republican Sen. Tommy Tuberville works to block typically routine approvals over his opposition to Pentagon abortion policy.

About 200 defense-related promotions await Senate action, but Tuberville has indicated he has no plans to ease his block unless the Department of Defense reverses course on an abortion policy for service members and their dependents who It was announced in October.

Since March, Tuberville has been using a prosecutorial tactic to delay promotions that often quickly pass the Senate by unanimous consent. However, a senator’s objection can stall the approval process.

The Alabama senator’s moves have drawn a bipartisan backlash, including from Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky. When asked at a news conference Wednesday about the Tuberville holds, McConnell replied: “No, I don’t support suspending military nominations. I don’t support that.»

Tuberville responded to McConnell’s comments Thursday by saying the Pentagon has not responded.

«I’m not talking to anybody, cackling anybody in the military, you know, to figure this out,» Tuberville told reporters.

When contacted for comment, a Pentagon spokesperson said in a statement that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin «and the Department continue to contact Senator Tuberville and his office in good faith and have directly conveyed how their control over our general and the flag officers has risks for our military». readiness and severely limit the Department’s ability to ensure strategic and operational success.

A Tuberville spokesman said Friday that some of the senator’s aides have been in contact with the Defense Department «a little bit.»

“If Secretary Austin is so worried that he can’t live without these nominees, he can suspend his memorandum,” Tuberville said in a speech to the Senate on Wednesday. «That’s all you have to do. Leave your memo and these nominees will proceed by unanimous consent. I am a man of my word. I will stand down. Until then, I will defend the Constitution and the unborn.» .»

Department of Defense policy provides paid time off and travel expenses for service members and dependents seeking abortions.

Austin shared his “deep concern” about Tuberville’s actions in a May 5 letter to Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who chairs the Senate Armed Services personnel subcommittee.

“This indefinite hold harms the national security of the United States and hinders normal Pentagon operations,” Austin wrote. “The United States military relies on the deep experience and strategic insights of our senior military leaders. The longer this hold persists, the greater the risk to the US military in every theater, every domain, and every service.”

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, DN.Y., criticized the Tuberville retentions in a speech Thursday.

«Your actions are dangerous, your words are gravely damaging, and your refusal to think about the consequences of your actions on our military personnel and our families is a stain on this chamber,» Schumer said.

Schumer’s comments about Tuberville, who voted to confirm Austin in 2021, were also a rebuke of the senator’s recent comments about white nationalists in the military.

Asked in an interview with the Birmingham-based radio station wbhm if he thinks white nationalists should be allowed in the military, Tuberville responded, «Well, that’s what they call them. I call them Americans.»

A Tuberville spokesperson later told NBC News that calling the senator’s white nationalist comments misinterpreted «would be the understatement of the century.»

CORRECTION (May 12, 2023, 9:05 p.m. ET): An earlier version of this article misrepresented the status of pending military promotions. They are awaiting Senate approval. They have not been scheduled for a vote on Monday.

Liz Brown-Kaiser, frank thorp, julie tsirkin, kate santaliz and courtney kube contributed.

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