Biden's pick as top US commander could be delayed by senator's blockade

By Patricia Zengerle

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A Republican senator's hold on military nominations will apply to Democratic President Joe Biden's selection of Air Force chief General Charles Q. Brown as the country's top military officer, who was chosen amid mounting U.S. concern over security threats from Russia and China.

A spokesman for Senator Tommy Tuberville said Brown's nomination would be affected because the hold applies to all high-level promotions.

Tuberville has blocked more than 150 military nominations from moving forward for months because he believes the Pentagon is improperly using government funding to cover travel costs for abortions for service members and their dependents.

After the U.S. Supreme Court last year overturned the landmark 1973 Roe v. Wade ruling recognizing a constitutional right to abortion, the Pentagon said it would cover travel costs for service members seeking abortions and up to 21 days off.

Several states have limited abortion access since Roe v. Wade was overturned, and the military argues that women service members cannot choose where they are stationed.

The Senate's approval of military promotions is usually smooth, with lawmakers agreeing to let them go ahead quickly. Tuberville's hold cannot prevent the Democratic-majority Senate from voting on any promotion, but it can drastically slow down the process.

(Reporting by Patricia Zengerle; Editing by Sonali Paul)