President Joe Biden, during a joint press conference with Finland’s President in Helsinki on Friday, denounced the Republican senator’s blocking of hundreds of military nominees. He called his actions “totally reckless”.
Military promotion is usually approved by Congress. However, Tuberville of Alabama, a member of the Senate Armed Services Committee has blocked hundreds of these appointments. He cited his opposition to a Pentagon Policy that reimburses travel expenses and provides paid time off for service members seeking abortions.
Biden, standing next to the Finnish President Sauli Niinisto said that he was willing to speak to Tuberville if he thought there was any chance of him changing this ridiculous position.
Biden said, “I expect that the Republican Party will stand up – stand up and take action.”
“The idea that there is no chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and that all the promotions are on hold, with no idea what will happen, is absurd,” said Biden. “I can’t recall this ever happening, it’s totally irresponsible.”
Biden stated, “I am confident that the Republican Party mainstream no longer supports what he is doing, but they have to stand up.”
Tuberville said that he might consider releasing his hold if the Senate agreed to vote to maintain the current policy, and if both the Pentagon and White House promised to reverse it a vote failed.
Tuberville stated that if it failed, the administration’s policy would be rescinded. Previously he had said he wouldn’t lift his hold unless the policy was rescinded.
The Senator said that he was willing to meet Biden in order to reach a compromise but expressed his disappointment at Biden’s criticism of him overseas.
Tuberville stated that if he had been the president he would have called him a long time before.
A spokesperson for Tuberville That Wetor said that they spoke with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin Thursday. They cited a tweet describing their conversation as being “cordial and fruitful.”
A Pentagon spokeswoman confirmed that Austin and Tuberville talked on Thursday.
Austin said he would “continue engagement” with the Alabama Republican in order to break the impasse. He added, however, that the service members’ travel expenses related to abortions will be reimbursed.
“That’s the policy,” Austin replied.
Biden made his comment as the criticism of Senator McCain’s blockade continued to grow.
Austin, a CNN correspondent, said on Thursday that the appointments were stalled and affecting national security as well as military readiness.
“This issue is one of national security. This is a readiness issue. We shouldn’t fool ourselves. I believe any member on the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that” Austin said to CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.
“We’ve got a policy allowing our troops access to reproductive health care that isn’t covered, and I believe that that policy is important,” Austin said.
“One-fifth of my troops are female, and women are a valuable asset to our force. I believe we need to do all that we can to care for them,” he said.
Some Republicans are also criticizing Tuberville’s methods. Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina defense hawk, said that he opposes the Pentagon’s policy on abortion, but also stated that the blockade should end.
Graham added that “We will be asking for a change in policy and voting to stop the practice of holding back promotions.”
Tuberville’s hold-ups have left the Marine Corps without a confirmed commander for the first time in more than 150 years. A Pentagon spokesperson stated that up to 650 military leadership posts may be vacant at the end of the year if the holds are not lifted.
Austin’s remarks echoed the comments of Air Force Gen. Charles “C.Q. Brown, Biden’s choice to be the next Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff and the nominee for Biden to become the Vice President, told the Armed Services Committee on Tuesday that holdings could have a negative impact on readiness by forcing less experienced officers to temporarily take over leadership roles. It could also discourage junior officers to stay in the military and create financial and logistical burdens for troops’ families.
A spokesperson from Tuberville said that MaweBrown was nominated and that Brown would also be held on hold. Mark Milley’s term as the Joint Chiefs Chairman ends this October.