Senior Officer Promotions to Be Slowed by GOP Senator over Pentagon's Abortion Policy

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala.
Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., speaks during a hearing to examine United States Special Operations Command and United States Cyber Command in review of the Defense Authorization Request for fiscal year 2022 and the Future Years Defense Program, on Capitol Hill, March 25, 2021, in Washington. (Anna Moneymaker/The New York Times via AP, Pool)

Hundreds of senior military officer promotions could be stalled after a Republican senator vowed to slow down Pentagon nominations -- including those of generals and admirals -- over the department's new travel and leave policies for service members seeking abortions.

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., in a Friday statement said he will "hold all Department of Defense (DoD) civilian, flag and general officer nominations that come before the U.S. Senate" because of the Pentagon's "radical plan to facilitate thousands of abortions a year with taxpayer dollars."

While a single senator cannot prevent confirmations, placing a hold requires the Senate to use valuable floor time to hold lengthy roll call votes on uncontroversial nominees who could otherwise be confirmed in a voice vote.

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And while it has become common for senators to place holds on civilian nominees over political differences, the threat to slow flag and general officer promotions is rare and could significantly gum up the works of the Senate since the upper chamber typically processes such nominees in bulk with voice votes.

A spokesperson for Tuberville confirmed to that the senator's holds still stood Tuesday and apply to all nominees for one-star general and admiral and above.

The Senate is charged with confirming all military promotions for O-4s and above, though Tuberville's hold on military nominees applies to only O-7s and above.

The Senate Armed Services Committee, on which Tuberville serves, processes about 50,000 civilian and military nominees a year, according to the committee's website. While the generals and admirals are just a sliver of that, they still number in the hundreds.

For example, on Friday, the Marine Corps announced eight one-star general nominees, and the Navy announced 28 one-star and 18 two-star admiral nominees.

As of Tuesday, more than 200 names up for promotion to one-star or above were pending action in either the Armed Services Committee or the full Senate, according to the Senate website.

Tuberville is specifically looking to combat policies announced by the Pentagon on Thursday afternoon intended to ease service members' access to abortion and other reproductive health care in the wake of last year's Supreme Court ruling that has allowed states to outlaw abortion.

Under the new policies, set to take effect in March, service members stationed in areas where abortion access is limited will be able to have travel expenses paid and receive up to three weeks of leave to go out of state for the procedure. The new benefits are also available to service members who want to receive fertility treatments that are not covered by military health care.

The policies garnered applause from the administration's Democratic allies, but sparked fury from Republicans. House Armed Services Committee Chairman Mike Rogers, R-Ala., said in a statement Thursday that "taking this action jeopardizes congressional authorizations for our warfighters."

Thursday's announcement filled in details of policies the Pentagon first said it would enact in October. Tuberville said in December he would place holds on all civilian and general and flag officer nominees if the department proceeded with the policies.

"This is an illegal expansion of DoD authority and a gross misuse of taxpayer dollars -- and I will hold [Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin] accountable," Tuberville said in his Friday statement. "The American people want a military focused on national defense, not facilitating a progressive political agenda."

Officially, right now, Tuberville's holds apply only to eight nominees pending before the full Senate since a hold doesn't stymie committee action, but any nominees the committee advances would be snarled until Tuberville lifts his hold. His office told the senator "intends to keep his hold on the nominees as long as the DoD's new abortion policy is in place."

-- Rebecca Kheel can be reached at Follow her on Twitter @reporterkheel.

Related: Military to Cover Travel Costs and Offer Leave for Troops Seeking Abortions, Fertility Treatment

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