House Foreign Affairs Chairman Mike McCaul, a Republican, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on Sunday that GOP Sen. Tommy Tuberville’s hold on military nominations is “paralyzing” and a “national security problem.”
“The idea that one man in the Senate can hold this up for months … is paralyzing the Department of Defense,” McCaul said on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I think that is a national security problem and a national security issue,” the Texas congressman said.
Tuberville, of Alabama, has delayed the confirmations of more than 300 top military nominees over his opposition to the Pentagon’s policy of reimbursing service members and their families who have to travel to receive abortion care. Tuberville says the Pentagon’s reproductive health policies violate the law, but Pentagon officials have pointed to a Justice Department memo that says the policies are lawful.
A spokesperson for Tuberville said McCaul’s view “just isn’t accurate.”
“No one can stop (Senate Majority Leader) Chuck Schumer from holding votes on these nominations. He just doesn’t want to,” spokesperson Steven Stafford wrote in an email to CNN. “It’s also inaccurate because acting officials are in all of these roles. In some cases these acting officials are the nominees for permanent roles. No jobs are open or going undone right now.”
One senator can hold up nominations or legislation in the chamber, and Tuberville’s stance has left three military services to operate without a Senate-confirmed leader for the first time in history.
It’s possible to confirm each nominee one by one, but Senate Democrats have argued that would take up valuable floor time – despite a five-week recess in August.
McCaul said on Sunday that he wishes Tuberville would reconsider his stance and that the Republican Party is working on the abortion travel policy issue through the National Defense Authorization Act.
“But to hold up the top brass from being promoted … I think is paralyzing our Department of Defense,” he said.
The hold on promotions, which began in March, has been a growing source of public scrutiny. The three US military service secretaries told CNN last week that Tuberville’s blockage is aiding communist and autocratic regimes, and is being used against the US by adversaries such as China.
In July, active-duty military spouses hand-delivered a petition to Schumer, Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and Tuberville signed by hundreds of military family members who were “deeply concerned and personally impacted by Senator Tuberville blocking confirmation of senior military leaders.”
Republican presidential candidate Nikki Haley told CNN’s Tapper on Sunday that if elected president, she would put an end to the reimbursement policy for travel for abortion care. Haley, whose husband is in the South Carolina Army National Guard, said military families should not be used as political pawns.
“I’m not saying that Sen. Tuberville is right in doing this, because I don’t want to use them as pawns. But if you love our military and are so adamant about it, then go and make Congress, Republicans and Democrats, have to go through person by person,” the former South Carolina governor and United Nations ambassador said.