A U.S. senator’s decision to hold up the nomination of senior military officials over the Pentagon’s abortion policy will have a ripple effect and hurt readiness, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said on Tuesday.
Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville, a former college football coach, has been blocking military nominations from moving forward since last month because he believes the Pentagon is improperly using funding to cover travel costs for abortions of service members.
After the Supreme Court last year overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling that recognized a constitutional right to abortion, the Pentagon said it would cover travel costs for service members seeking abortions and up to 21 days off.
“Not approving the recommendation for promotions actually creates a ripple effect through the force that makes us far less ready than we need to be,” Austin told lawmakers during a Senate Armed Services Committee hearing.
During Tuesday’s hearing, Tuberville said the Pentagon’s policy was made without lawmakers authorizing the change.
“As long as I have a voice in this body, Congress will write the laws not secretary of defense, not the Joint Chiefs,” Tuberville said.
Senior military nominations are approved by the committee and eventually the Senate. A single senator can pause the process, though their review is usually routine.
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, a Democrat, said Tuberville was holding 160 nominees from moving forward, including those to lead U.S. naval forces in the Pacific and Middle East.
“It shouldn’t have to be said, but the senator from Alabama’s hold of hundreds of routine military promotions is reckless, it damages the readiness of our military, and puts American security in jeopardy,” Schumer said on Monday.
“The Senator from Alabama’s actions risk permanently politicizing the confirmation of military personnel for the first time ever, and that would cause immense damage to the military’s ability to lead and protect us,” he added.