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Republican senator slams blocking military promotions over abortion policy

WASHINGTON — A Republican senator is drawing bipartisan criticism for blocking the promotions of more than 150 military generals and flag officers to protest a new Department of Defense policy that provides travel and paid time off for service members and their dependents seeking an abortion.

The Senate must approve promotions of high-level officers and generals, a task that is usually quick and smooth. But any senator can throw sand in the gears, and Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., is using procedural tactics to block the rapid review of 158 generals and flag officers, as well as two civilian candidates.

“One senator — just one senator, my colleague from Alabama, Senator Tuberville — is blocking all confirmations from generals and general officers, holding our military, our national security, our security hostage,” the chief of staff said Tuesday. the majority in the Senate, Chuck Schumer, during his weekly. press conference. “For years – years and years and years – the two sides have worked together to quickly confirm routine promotions to generals and flag officers without partisan bickering.

“Our general in NATO, he’s one of the people he’s blocking at a time when we have a war with Putin in Ukraine,” he said. “It’s just awful what he’s doing.”

Tuberville’s decision drew criticism from some Republicans, including Senator Susan Collins of Maine, who said, “My concern is withholding promotions from members of the military as opposed to political candidates.”

“They don’t do politics,” Collins said. “And at a time when we have recruiting and retention issues in our military, I worry about the signal that would send, but it’s mainly – it’s not the decision makers.”

Tuberville said he would maintain the promotions until the policy is changed, telling a Senate hearing on Tuesday, “In the last 40 years, I don’t recall a single military member ever complains that we do not perform enough abortions.

“I want our military to be the strongest and deadliest it has ever been, but I also want the administration to obey the law,” he said. “As long as I have a voice in this body, Congress will write the laws, not the Secretary of Defense, not the Joint Chiefs of Staff.”

The Department of Defense says the policy does not fund abortions, but instead gives service members and their dependents the ability to obtain reproductive procedures that may no longer be available as states roll back protections against abortion. abortion after the Supreme Court struck down Roe v. Wade last year.

“Almost 1 in 5 of our troops are women, and they don’t have the ability to choose where they are stationed, so almost 80,000 of our women are stationed in places where they don’t have access to reproductive health services not covered care,” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said during a Senate hearing on Tuesday. “And I’ve heard from our troops, I’ve heard from our senior leaders, I’ve heard from our chiefs and also from our secretaries, and this policy is based on solid legal foundations, and it is not a law, it is a policy.

Austin spoke directly to Tuberville during the hearing, saying, “I really implore you to reconsider and allow our nominations to go forward. It will make a significant difference to our strength. »

Unless Tuberville relents, there is little the military or senators on either side of the aisle can do. Without a deal, each promotion is subject to a simple majority vote, and given Senate procedure, it would take weeks to complete the dozens of promotions the Department of Defense needs to be approved.

“Not only does Senator Tuberville want to control the decisions military women make about their own health, he’s willing to hurt our troops and our country to do so,” Schumer said.

Sen. John Thune, RS.D., who is temporarily leading the Republican conference as Minority Leader Mitch McConnell recovers from a fall and concussion, defended Tuberville, saying he is using his “rights as a senator to get the attention of the administration”. .”

“Senator Tuberville – the question he raises, I agree that the policy of the Department of Defense is atrocious, and it is a departure from decades of understanding of federal public policy in relation to this issue “, Thune said.

“I hope they can sit down with Senator Tuberville and resolve the issue he raised,” he added. “He’s very passionate about this, and he’s not the only one. We have a lot of members in our conference who care deeply about this issue.”


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