Biden criticizes US senator’s grip on military appointments

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose

(Reuters) – President Joe Biden on Monday criticized Republican U.S. Senator Tommy Tuberville for delaying some 200 Pentagon candidates over a Defense Department abortion policy.

“It’s just weird. I don’t remember this happening before, and I’ve been around,” Biden said of Tuberville’s actions during a fundraiser for wealthy donors in Silicon Valley in California.

Tuberville, a former football coach from Alabama, began blocking confirmations to senior Pentagon positions in March to protest a Department of Defense policy enacted last year that provides paid time off and reimburses expenses for soldiers who travel for abortions.

The Alabama senator called the policy a violation of the Hyde Amendment, which prohibits the use of federal taxpayer funds for abortion services.

Earlier this month, the White House slammed the lawmaker. Press officer Karine Jean-Pierre called his actions “shameful” and accused him of endangering national security.

Jean-Pierre said the senator’s blockade of candidates was hurting military families and risking “our military readiness by robbing our armed forces of leadership.”

The Alabama senator is blocking what is usually a quick process to confirm Pentagon nominees. If he persists, the US Senate will have to consider each nominee in a longer process that takes up valuable speaking time.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in May that the heist endangered national security and called the blockade “irresponsible”.

(Reporting by Trevor Hunnicutt in Los Gatos, California, and Nandita Bose in Washington; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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