US Senate manoeuvres around Tommy Tuberville's abortion objections

US Senate manoeuvres around Tommy Tuberville
# 21 September 2023 07:03 (UTC +04:00)

The US Senate has taken an unusual step to bypass a Republican's blockade of senior military appointments in protest over a Pentagon abortion policy, APA reports citing BBC.

Top US military vacancies are usually filled in large groups, but over 300 nominees have been held up by Senator Tommy Tuberville of Alabama.

The Senate is now confirming three positions on a one-by-one basis after resisting that option for months in the hope Mr Tuberville would back down.

His one-man blockade began in February.

Typically, the upper congressional chamber fast-tracks and confirms military nominations all together at once with bipartisan support, via a process known as unanimous consent.

But a single senator can prevent it, and Mr Tuberville has done so for eight months in objection to a US Defence Department abortion policy.

The policy, enacted late last year, provides service members and their dependents with leave and travel stipends so they can get abortions across state lines.

Mr Tuberville says this violates a ban on taxpayer-funded abortion.

The Biden administration has said it is a key healthcare benefit for women who live in states that have restricted abortion access since the Supreme Court last year rescinded a constitutional right to pregnancy terminations held by US women for half a century.

Members of both parties have spoken out against the Alabama legislator's blockade, but Mr Tuberville has refused to relent unless the Pentagon reverses course or Congress votes on the policy. The Pentagon too has shown no signs of backing down.

As a result, all three branches of the country's military have been operating without Senate-confirmed leaders, which critics argue jeopardises national security.

The number of nominees caught up in the standoff could double by the end of the year.

On Wednesday, the Democratic leader of the Senate, Chuck Schumer, moved to confirm General Charles Brown as the new chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, replacing outgoing General Mark Milley.

The Senate approved the nomination by 83-11, with Mr Tuberville and a handful of Republican colleagues voting no.

Mr Schumer also moved to process the key nominations of General Randy George as Army chief of staff and General Eric Smith as commandant of the Marine Corps. Both currently serve in an acting capacity.

"We cannot allow Senator Tuberville to decide which of our dedicated and brave service members get promoted and which get to languish," Mr Schumer of New York said on the Senate floor.