WASHINGTON Though the retirement of top US servicemen begins in less than a month, Sen. Tommy Tuberville refuses to budge on his block on hundreds of armed services promotions to protest the Pentagon’s reproductive care policy instituted after the reversal of Roe v. Wade.
Alabama’s first Republican term is causing concern among members of his own party as the highest-ranking US Marine is due to retire on July 10 and as Pentagon officials warn that the delay in appointments weakens military readiness. Among those waiting in line are a new leader of the United States Naval Academy in Annapolis, Maryland, and a new top military adviser to the president.
I’ve been in discussions with a variety of senators on this matter, to allow him to vote, but also to start shifting nominations as well, GOP Sen. Dan Sullivan of Alaska, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, said Tuesday to the US newsroom.
Tuberville is pressing the administration and the Democrats who control the Senate to bring a standalone bill to the floor for a vote on a Defense Department policy that allows time off and travel allowances for service members stationed in states where the abortion is prohibited or severely restricted.
The senator reportedly this week rejected an offer from fellow GOP Sen. Joni Ernst of Iowa to include her proposal to ban the policy as part of this year’s National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill of the Congress to reauthorize military spending and operations.
Ernst’s office did not respond to multiple questions about the negotiation. Ernst, a leading voice on the Senate Armed Services Committee, served as a company commander in the US Army reserves in Kuwait and Iraq in the early 2000s and retired as a lieutenant colonel after 23 years.
Tuberville staffers reported to the US newsroom recent comments the senator, whom they call a coach, made to reporters in early June.
Let’s vote on an autonomous (bill). I don’t want to mess with the NDAA, said the former Auburn University football coach. As I told the Department of Defense, prepare a bill, send it here, vote on it. And whatever happens, happens. If they lose, they go back to the old policy. If they win, we get on with life. I mean, that’s what we do here.
United States Senator Tommy Tuberville’s months-long search
Tuberville has stalled nominations which have grown to more than 200 for several months.
In March, Tuberville told the US newsroom that he intended to settle it with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin.
Tuberville vowed to smooth things over with Austin just hours after the top Pentagon official testified during a budget hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee that the obstruction actually creates a ripple effect through the force that us it makes us much less ready than we need to be.
The effects are absolutely critical in terms of their impact on force, Austin told Armed Services Committee chairman Senator Jack Reed of Rhode Island March 28.
This is one of the most challenging and complex periods we have seen lately. We are witnessing a war, the largest conflict in Europe since the Second World War. We see an aggressive China operating in the Indo-Pacific. We see Iranian-backed elements chasing our troops. And there are a number of things happening globally that indicate we might be in a competition on any given day, he said she.
Senator Angus King, a Maine independent who sits on the Armed Services Committee, said he heard the concerns of military generals.
I know that various members of both sides have spoken to (Tuberville) about this. I looked at General (Eric) Smith who is a candidate for Commandant of the Marine Corps and I asked him that question point blank, I said, Is he compromising national security? And finally he said yes, King said.
Among the hundreds of blocked candidate positions that the Senate has historically passed unanimously in large groups is the replacement of Joint Chiefs of Staff Chairman Mark Milley, who will retire in October.
You know, people can make their points. We will have amendments on this abortion issue in committee, and perhaps in the House. So Senator Tuberville has all kinds of opportunities to try and convince his colleagues that this is bad policy and should be reversed. Compromising national security shouldn’t be one of those methods, King said.
Other senators, meanwhile, are mobilizing to blockade Tuberville.
I think most people believe he deserves a vote, said GOP Senator Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, referring to Tuberville.
Senator Marco Rubio, a Republican from Florida, said he was unaware of any coordinated effort within the conference to convince Tuberville otherwise.
I support his holds, he said.
United States Naval Academy change of command
The Tuberville Game of Supporting Candidates is a strategy used by members of the upper house to signal opposition to a nomination or proposal.
Ultimately, the Senate Majority Leader has the power to decide whether to honor a suspension and for how long.
We will try to get as many candidates as possible, Majority Leader Chuck Schumer of New York City told the states newsroom on Tuesday in the hallway after a floor vote.
Schumer’s office hasn’t responded to multiple questions for months about how the leader plans to approach the holds.
Senator Ben Cardin of Maryland Thursday requested unanimous consent to move the nomination of Rear Admiral Yvette M. Davids ahead of the incoming class induction on June 29. Davids is the candidate to lead the United States Naval Academy at Annapolis following the retirement of Vice Admiral Sean Buck.
The last time a Naval Academy superintendent did not have a summer change of command was more than 59 years ago in 1964, when the sitting superintendent had a heart attack that led to his early retirement, according to a statement from the Naval Academy. Cardins office.
Tuberville responded in the room: I want to be clear on this because my fellow Democrats have been spreading a bit of misinformation. I’m not preventing anyone from getting confirmation. I’m not blocking a single vote. I’m just blocking unanimous consent. If Democrats want to vote on these candidates one at a time, I’m all for it and will probably vote for them.
Schumer addresses the issue of short debating time and bringing in candidates individually could stall (the Senate), said Michael Thorning, director of structural democracy for the Bipartisan Policy Center.
Schumer, or any Senate leader, must also consider the risk of future games, Thorning said in April.
Not wanting to encourage or incentivize future bad behavior by not honoring the hold, Senate leaders often show tolerance and are willing to let the hold stand because they don’t want that senator to be a filibuster anymore, Thorning said.
The Senate is what game theorists would call a repeating game. You know, the majority leader, the minority leader, the other senators know that somehow they’re going to be continuously engaged in this legislative process with one another, and therefore, you’re constantly calibrating your decisions against the consideration that you’re going to make, going forward, the impact on how the senator behaves must be considered, he continued.
White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Wednesday that senators shouldn’t get involved in politics.
They shouldn’t play politics with our military assistance, with our military readiness and with our military family, she said when asked by reporters about the holds.
Aftermath of the Fall of Roe v. Wade
The Biden administration introduced the policy in February to support travel by service members for uncovered reproductive health care.
A year ago this month, the US Supreme Court struck down federal protections for abortion, sparking a patchwork of state-by-state regulations, where in some abortions remain legal and in others such services are effectively banned.
According to a September 2022 report released by think tank RAND, about 80,000 female service members are stationed in locations with no or severely limited access to uncovered reproductive health care, such as elective abortions.
Nearly 1 in 5 of our troops are women and they don’t have a choice where they are stationed, Austin testified in March.
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