US Senate panel advances measure to ease blockade on military promotions

WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The U.S. Senate Rules Committee voted along party lines on Tuesday to advance legislation that would clear the way for hundreds of military promotions that one Republican has been delaying to protest Defense Department abortion policy.

The panel voted 9-7 to send the resolution for a vote in the full Senate. Although Democrats control a 51-seat majority in the 100-member chamber, it was not certain the rule would go into effect because Senate rules require that it receive 60 votes to move ahead.

Senate Democrats wrote the legislation in response to Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville’s refusal since February to allow quick approval of most promotion of generals, admirals and other high-level military officials to protest the Pentagon’s policy of covering abortion travel costs for service members and dependents.

The resolution would temporarily sidestep Tuberville’s holds by allowing the Senate to consider multiple promotions simultaneously if they have already been approved by the Armed Services Committee.

Under Senate rules, one lawmaker can hold up nominations even if the other 99 all want them to move quickly. Tuberville’s blockade has faced opposition from some Republicans as well as Democrats, who say he should make his point on a policy matter by targeting nominees involved with policy, not punishing military members who have earned promotion.

Last summer, Tuberville’s campaign left the Marine Corps without a commandant for the first time in more than 100 years. In his most recent blockade, the senator last week objected to the promotions of 364 officers.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; editing by Jonathan Oatis)

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