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The senator who blocked military promotions in the U.S. announces the withdrawal of his veto

2023-12-06T01:26:30.388Z

Highlights: Republican Tommy Tuberville blocked more than 400 appointments of military commanders. He wanted to force the Pentagon to abandon its policy in favor of reproductive freedom. Pentagon, the White House and Democratic lawmakers launched numerous calls for the senator to change his attitude. "We ended up in a draw. They don't have what they wanted. We didn't get what we wanted," he said Tuesday.. The Pentagon has reacted with relief to the senator's announcement, although it has urged him to facilitate the appointments.


Republican Tommy Tuberville shut down more than 450 appointments in protest of the Pentagon's pro-reproductive freedom policy


For almost a year, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville alone was the biggest obstacle to the proper functioning of the U.S. armed forces: he blocked more than 400 appointments of military commanders, from the highest to others of relatively low rank but essential in the day-to-day management of the military. With his veto, he wanted to force the Pentagon to abandon its policy in favor of reproductive freedom. Now, after months of pressure even from his own party, he has announced that he will finally allow most promotions to go ahead.

The Alabama senator will, however, maintain his veto over nearly a dozen appointments of four-star generals, the highest level in the U.S. military hierarchy. "Those will continue," the conservative Republican politician told reporters, announcing the end of his blockade on Capitol Hill.

"We ended up in a draw. They don't have what they wanted. We didn't get what we wanted," Tuberville said. His announcement represents a 180-degree turn in his strategy: For ten months he prevented the Senate Armed Services Committee from approving hardly any military appointments, protesting a Pentagon initiative that offers days off and covers travel expenses for soldiers who want abortions or undergo fertility treatments. and that they are located in areas of the country where there is no access to such services.

That policy had been adopted after the Supreme Court overturned Roe v. Wade in 2022, which for half a century guaranteed the right to abortion throughout the United States. The Pentagon wanted to ensure equal access to health care for the military, who cannot choose where they are assigned.

Following the senator's statement, President Joe Biden, who had repeatedly urged him to lift his veto, has expressed satisfaction at the end of the blockade. And he has made his anger clear: "Senator Tuberville, and the Republicans who supported him, needlessly harmed hundreds of military personnel and their families, and jeopardized our national security; all to promote partisan measures. I hope no one forgets what he did."

The one-man campaign of this former American football coach, who arrived in the Senate in 2020, left the Department of Defense with numerous vacancies in key positions. Or with commanders who could only exercise their positions in office, without being able to make decisions beyond the most basic. Or without being able to organize moves, move their families to their new destinations, or receive the salary increases linked to their promotion.

Tuberville's veto even reached the highest military command, the chief of the General Staff Junta. When the incumbent, General Mark Milley, retired in September, the Senate had to vote for his replacement, General Charles Q Brown, on the floor of the chamber.

The Republican politician argued that the same procedure could be used with each promotion proposal. But putting each military appointment to a plenary vote was a disproportionate waste of time: it would have taken months of uninterrupted sessions to fill all the outstanding vacancies.

The Pentagon, the White House and Democratic lawmakers launched numerous calls for the senator to change his attitude. The lack of commanders in key positions, they argued, affected the morale of the forces and their ability to react. It jeopardized national security, especially at a time when the United States is competing with China in the Asia-Pacific, assisting Ukraine in the war against Russia's invasion and strengthening its military presence in the Middle East in the face of the conflict between Israel and Hamas.

These calls had also been joined by pressure from the Republican Party itself, which not only alleged the risk to national security. Also, the fear that in the future, if the political tables were turned, some Democratic legislator could imitate that tactic and impose his blockade against Republican appointees. Republican senators such as Lindsey Graham, Joni Ernst and Dan Sullivan, all veterans of the Armed Forces, pleaded with him on the Senate floor to lift the veto.

Even Republican Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell publicly criticized Tuberville. According to McConnell, the Alabama politician was punishing "military heroes" for a policy that had been decided by the Pentagon.

Finally, Tuberville has caved in to the prospect, which already seemed inevitable, of the Democratic majority in the Senate introducing a bill for a change in the chamber's rules to override the veto. Several Republican lawmakers were willing to vote in favor, which would have guaranteed passage of the measure.

"It's been a long fight," the Alabama lawmaker told reporters Tuesday. "We fought hard. We did the right thing to defend the unborn and our military, standing up to government overreach."

The Pentagon has reacted with relief to the senator's announcement, although it has urged him to facilitate the appointments of four-star generals as well. "As has been made clear by everything that is happening in the world right now, we have a very important mission when it comes to the defense of this country. Any time you add a level of uncertainty up the chain of command it creates unnecessary friction," Defense Department spokesman Gen. Patrick Ryder said.

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Source: elparis

All news articles on 2023-12-06

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