WASHINGTON — Hundreds of military promotions and nominations are on hold, including some in Texas, because of a Republican senator’s demands that the Pentagon rescind its policy guaranteeing abortion access.
Some Texas veterans, and even one House Republican, are joining the chorus, urging Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, to rethink his extraordinary tactics.
Just before Congress returned from their August recess, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-El Paso, spoke to veterans in El Paso about their health care and other benefits. She later told Spectrum News she is worried that Tuberville’s blockade of military promotions is damaging the readiness of America’s armed forces.
“There’s a lot of instability in the world right now, and more than ever, we need our military leaders in place,” Escobar said. “It is unconscionable that because he doesn’t want women to have access to reproductive health care, he’s willing to put our readiness on the line. And I have a message for the senator. Our adversaries are watching what he’s doing.”
Tuberville said he will block Senate confirmation of military promotions until the Pentagon stops providing paid time off and travel expenses for service members and dependents to obtain abortions out of state.
The Pentagon calls the policy necessary, after the Supreme Court overturned the constitutional right to an abortion. Texas has restricted abortions and is home to several military posts, including Fort Bliss in El Paso; Fort Cavazos, near Killeen; and Joint Base San Antonio-Lackland.
An influential Texan in Congress, Foreign Affairs Committee Chair Rep. Michael McCaul, R-Austin, criticized Tuberville at a recent appearance on CNN’s “State of the Union.”
“I think that is a national security problem and a national security issue, and I really wish he would reconsider this,” McCaul said.
Tuberville has said on social media that it is the Biden administration’s policies that are the real threat to readiness.
Meanwhile, some Texas veterans don’t think service members should be used as bargaining chips.
“I would take offense to the concept that we are tools, that we should be able to use in such a manner,” Rick Schumacher, an Army veteran, told Spectrum News.
“I don’t think that this is in line with protecting our national security. I think that on top of that, it really doesn’t take into account the sacrifices that these individuals are making,” he continued.
Schumacher grew up in Texas and served in Iraq in 2002 and 2003. He said he is especially concerned about the effect of Tuberville’s blockade on military families.
“Imagine somebody’s at Fort Cavazos and they’re being promoted into a position at the Pentagon. Well, they have a family that’s in tow with them, potentially, and those family members aren’t able to move during the time period,” Schumacher said. “It definitely affects the ability for those leaders to take on the responsibilities that they’re supposed to be rolling into.”
Sen. John Cornyn of Texas said there is a way around Tuberville’s blockade, but Cornyn said he believes Democrats won’t do that because he thinks the controversy helps them politically.
“[Sen. Majority Leader Chuck] Schumer can always trump that. He just refuses to do so because he likes the political narrative,” Cornyn told CNN.
Schumer said that workaround, which would be taking up each nomination one by one, would be time consuming and break decades of tradition. Schumer said it is up to Republicans to solve the problem.