WASHINGTON — Senator Tommy Tuberville says he’ll continue to block hundreds of U.S. military promotions unless the Biden administration abolishes its new abortion policy and the Senate votes on the issue because “we are not a Communist country.”
“They are starting to believe me that I meant what I said,” the Alabama Republican said Tuesday on Bloomberg Television’s “Balance of Power.” “We’re not going to have any movement on my side unless they change it back and let’s vote on it. And if it passes, it passes, and if it doesn’t, it doesn’t.”
The Pentagon announced last year that it would pay allowances for troops and their dependents traveling to obtain abortions in places where they remain legal because of concern that the Supreme Court’s decision to end a constitutional right to abortion put pressure on military readiness and recruitment.
Tuberville began his freeze on confirmation votes in February. With more than 300 promotions now blocked, the Army, Navy and Marine Corps don’t have confirmed service chiefs and are led by acting commanders. In October, the military may lack a chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff because General Mark Milley must leave that post when his term expires.
Tuberville — a former Auburn University football coach whose father was in the military, but didn’t serve himself — said that an abortion policy that had been in place since 1984 worked “perfect.” Doctors on military bases, as employees of the federal government, are already banned from performing abortions, so female troops and dependents of armed services personnel must seek the procedure on their own.
The department’s policy makes exceptions when the pregnancy is the result of an act of rape or incest or when the life of the mother is at risk.
Democrats have rejected a push by Republican senators to bring up for debate the nominations for the Joint Chiefs chairman and other high-level positions such as the service chiefs, while allowing hundreds of other nominations to languish.
“The notion that we were going to somehow select which member of our military leadership that have earned these promotions, on choosing one over the other, goes against the whole sense of the military being a team organization,” Senator Mark Warner, a Virginia Democrat and chairman of the Intelligence Committee, said in an interview on Bloomberg Radio’s “Sound On” earlier Tuesday.
“Ronald Reagan has to be rolling over in his grave,” Warner said. “These kinds of political antics are making our military less strong and our country more weak by playing politics on this issue. I hope and pray that that my Republican colleagues, a lot of whom have expressed concerns to me privately, that they will put the kind of pressure on.”
Senator Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, released an estimate on Tuesday that he’d requested as to how long it would take the Senate to get through a slog of procedural steps to vote on each stalled military nomination one-by-one despite Tuberville’s objections.
The Congressional Research Service said that as of last month, when Tuberville was blocking 273 nominations, it would take the Senate 30 days and 17 hours to do so — working nonstop 24 hours a day.
(With assistance from Annmarie Hordern, Joe Mathieu and Peter Martin.)
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