Republican lawmakers criticize military blockade of Tommy Tuberville

The Republican chairman of the House Foreign Affairs Committee on Sunday condemned Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s continued pushback on hundreds of military promotions, calling it a “crippling” move that amounts to a “national security problem.”

“The idea that one man in the Senate can do that for months — I understand maybe promotions, but nominations? — cripples the Defense Department,” Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Texas, said in an interview on CNN’s “State of the Union.” “I think this is a national security issue and a national security issue.”

Tuberville, R-Ala., a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee, has blocked hundreds of military promotions for months because of his opposition to a Defense Department policy that provides paid time off and travel reimbursement for service members and dependents seeking abortions.

The Defense Department’s abortion policy has sparked heated debate among members of Congress and has become a key part of negotiations over the National Defense Authorization Act, an annual defense policy bill. The Republican-led House passed its version of the bill after adding an amendment that would force the Pentagon to repeal the directive.

However, the Democratic-led Senate passed its own version of the NDAA in July after bypassing votes on amendments related to abortion access and healthcare for transgender people in the military.

McCaul said Sunday that he wanted Tuberville to reconsider ending military promotions, adding that the abortion issue would be resolved in the NDAA.

“But preventing senior and junior leadership from being promoted, I think, cripples our Defense Department,” he said.

Steven Stafford, a spokesman for Tuberville, was reached for comment and said McCaul’s comments were “inaccurate.”

“No one can stop [Senate Majority Leader] Blocked Chuck Schumer from voting on these nominations. He just doesn’t want to,” Stafford said in a statement. “It is also inaccurate because all of these roles involve sitting officers. In some cases, these incumbent officials are nominated for permanent positions. There are currently no positions open or no longer being processed.”

Some of McCaul’s Republican colleagues are trying to deflect criticism of the military blockade of Tuberville by criticizing Schumer, DN.Y. They argue that Schumer should plan for individual votes for the hundreds of military promotions Tuberville makes.

President Joe Biden sharply criticized Tuberville for continuing to hold up hundreds of military promotions while announcing plans for more military nominations.

“What Senator Tuberville is doing is not just wrong – it is dangerous,” Biden said in a statement in July. “At this moment of rapidly evolving security environments and intense competition, it risks our ability to ensure that the Armed Forces of the United States remain the greatest fighting force in the history of the world.

“And his Republican colleagues in the Senate know it,” Biden added.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also condemned Tuberville’s influence at a discharge ceremony for Chief of Naval Operations Adm. Mike Gilday at the U.S. Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, last month.

“As a result of this blanket suspension, starting today, for the first time in Department of Defense history, three of our military services are operating without Senate-confirmed leaders,” Austin said at the event.

“This is unprecedented, it is unnecessary and it is unsafe,” he added. “This pervasive influence undermines America’s military readiness. It hinders our ability to retain our very best officers. And it is upending the lives of far too many American military families.”

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