Biden criticizes U.S. senator’s hold on military nominations

By Trevor Hunnicutt and Nandita Bose

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

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

Tuberville, a former football coach from Alabama, began blocking confirmations to senior Pentagon posts in March to protest a Defense Department policy enacted last year that provides paid leave and reimburses costs for service members who travel to get an abortion.

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

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

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

The Alabama senator is blocking what is usually a speedy process to confirm Pentagon nominees. If he persists, the U.S. Senate would have to consider each nominee in a longer process that takes up valuable floor time.

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in May said the holdup as endangering national security and called the block “irresponsible.”

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