NATIONAL NEWS

McConnell opposes Alabama Republican’s blockade of military nominees over Pentagon abortion policy

May 10, 2023, 3:08 PM

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens as President Joe Biden speaks before a meeti...

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., listens as President Joe Biden speaks before a meeting to discuss the debt limit in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, May 9, 2023, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)
Credit: ASSOCIATED PRESS

(AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

WASHINGTON (AP) — Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell said Wednesday that he won’t support a fellow GOP senator’s blockade of military nominees, backing Democrats and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin who have said that the holdup is harming national security.

Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville is objecting to the normally routine practice of confirming dozens of military nominations, a move that would force the Senate to hold potentially hundreds of votes to confirm non-controversial senior military officers. Tuberville has not backed down from his now-monthslong pledge to hold up the nominees over the Pentagon’s abortion policy, which provides travel funds and support for troops and dependents who seek abortions but are based in states where they are now illegal.

“No, I don’t support putting a hold on military nominations,” McConnell told reporters, in response to a question about Tuberville’s blockade. “I don’t support that. But as to why, you’ll have to ask Sen. Tuberville.”

McConnell’s comments have no practical effect on Tuberville’s holds, because any senator can hold up any Senate action. But the GOP leader’s position further isolates the Alabama Republican as lawmakers and national security officials have said that the holdup may have dangerous effects.

In a letter sent last week to Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democrat, Austin wrote that he has “deep concern” about the delays in confirmations. He said the Pentagon estimates that approximately 650 officers covered by the hold – those at the one-star to four-star levels – will require Senate confirmation between now and the end of the year.

The delays pose “a clear risk to U.S. military readiness, especially at his critical time,” Austin wrote, adding that never before has one senator held up so many officers. The glut of vacancies would break down the department’s normal flow of leadership and breed uncertainty and confusion, he said, risking operations in “every theater, every domain, and every service.”

At a hearing earlier this year, Austin defended the abortion policy by saying that tens of thousands of women in the military live and work in locations that don’t have regular reproductive health care. “This policy is based on strong legal ground,” he said.

A spokesman for Tuberville said Wednesday that McConnell’s comments have not changed his position. The senator has said repeatedly that he won’t budge.

“Secretary Austin thought abortion is more important than his highest-level military nominations,” he said late last month, after Democrats tried to call up the nominations on the Senate floor. “Secretary Austin could end the policy today, and I would lift my hold. Secretary Austin has chosen not to do that.”

Tuberville has argued that Schumer can bring the nominations to the Senate floor at any time and hold individual votes. But each nomination would require at least two votes and days of Senate time, and Democrats have argued that it would set a dangerous precedent to hold partisan votes on routine military nominations that have traditionally been unanimously approved by voice vote.

Schumer said on the Senate floor Wednesday that Republicans are willing to jeopardize U.S. “standing abroad, the livelihood of service members, and our military readiness” over the issue of abortion access.

“Our national security is not a bargaining chip for radical right-wing policies,” Schumer said.

___

Associated Press writer Lolita Baldor contributed to this report.

National News

Associated Press

Alaska election officials to recalculate signatures for ranked vote repeal measure after court order

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — A state court judge on Friday disqualified numerous booklets used to gather signatures for an initiative that aims to repeal Alaska’s ranked choice voting system and gave elections officials a deadline to determine if the measure still had sufficient signatures to qualify for the November ballot. The decision by Superior Court […]

35 minutes ago

Associated Press

Florida man arrested, accused of making threats against Trump, Vance on social media

JUPITER, Fla. (AP) — A Florida man accused of making threats against former President Donald Trump, U.S. Sen. JD Vance and their families on social media was arrested on Friday, police said. The Jupiter Police Department said in a news release that officers arrested Michael W. Wiseman on charges of written threats to kill. He […]

2 hours ago

FILE - Rep. George Santos, R-N.Y., leaves the Capitol after being expelled from the House of Repres...

Associated Press

Judge turns down ex-Rep. George Santos’ request to nix some charges ahead of fraud trial

NEW YORK (AP) — Former U.S. Rep. George Santos on Friday lost a bid to get rid of part of the criminal case against him as he heads toward trial on charges that include defrauding campaign donors. U.S. District Joanna Seybert turned down Santos’ request to dismiss charges of aggravated identity theft and theft of […]

3 hours ago

Associated Press

A judge adds 11 years to the sentence for a man in a Chicago bomb plot

CHICAGO (AP) — A man convicted of plotting to blow up a Chicago bar will have to spend another 11 years in prison. U.S. District Judge Matthew Kennelly resentenced Adel Daoud to 27 years in prison on Friday, the Chicago Tribune reported. U.S. District Judge Sharon Johnson Coleman originally sentenced Daoud to 16 years in […]

3 hours ago

FILE Opponents to an immigration proposal gather inside the Arizona State Capitol, Tuesday, June 4,...

Associated Press

Legal fight continues with appeals over proposed immigration initiative for Arizona Nov. 5 ballot

PHOENIX (AP) — The fight to keep a proposed border initiative off Arizona’s Nov. 5 ballot is not over yet. Immigrant advocates kept the issue alive this week by filing notice to the state Supreme Court that they will appeal the judge’s ruling. A Maricopa County Superior Court judge on July 12 rejected an effort […]

4 hours ago

Associated Press

Lawsuit filed over Alabama law that blocks more people with felony convictions from voting

MONTGOMERY, Ala. (AP) — A voting rights group says a new Alabama law that expanded the list of felonies that cause a person to lose their right to vote is “out of step” with what is happening in most of the nation on voting rights for formerly incarcerated people. The Campaign Legal Center filed the […]

4 hours ago

McConnell opposes Alabama Republican’s blockade of military nominees over Pentagon abortion policy