Manchin cosponsors bill to restore back pay for officers whose promotions were blocked, and resolution condemning Hamas

MORGANTOWN – Sen. Joe Manchin this week cosponsored a bill to restore back pay to military officers whose promotions were delayed by a GOP senator opposed to Pentagon abortion policy, and a resolution condemning Hamas.

Manchin and Sen. Mike Rounds, R-S.D., introduced the bipartisan Military Personnel Confirmation Restoration Act of 2023 to provide the and to provide retroactive promotion dates and other administrative fixes.

This bill follows Tuesday’s announcement by Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Ala., that he was releasing his hold on promotions initiated in February. The hold was a move to pressure the Pentagon to end its abortion-leave policy giving service members access to abortions by allowing them to be reimbursed for travel to abortion clinics.

News reports indicated Tuberville had held up more than 400 promotion nominees. On Tuesday he announced his agreement with two other GOP senators to release the hold for three-star officers and below, while retaining it for four-star officers – about 11 people.

Manchin said, “These men and women are true American heroes and the least we can do in Congress is restore the benefits they have earned and deserve. I encourage my colleagues on both sides of the aisle to support this important legislation that compensates our troops and reprioritizes national security.”

Rounds said, “The men and women who wear the uniform of the United States of America should not be negatively impacted by political squabbles. When our men and women in uniform serve side by side, they don’t know whether the people they are serving with are Republicans, Democrats or Independents.”

Rounds said he disagrees with the Department of Defense’s policy to pay the travel expenses for service members and their dependents seeking abortions, and he supports every senator’s right to hold any nomination. “However, our men and women in uniform should not be caught in the middle of partisan politics.”

The bill was sent to the Armed Services Committee. Five other senators have signed on: two Democrats, an Independent, and two Republicans: Tuberville and Sen. Joni Ernst, R-Iowa, who worked with Tuberville on his plan to release the hold.

News reports said Tuberville was persuaded to change course after word emerged that Democrats were planning a vote on changing Senate rules to allow the promotions to move forward.

Hamas resolution

Manchin joined with Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, to introduce the bipartisan resolution condemning Hamas. They call Hamas “the terrorist organization that is dedicated to destroying the Jewish state of Israel and using the Palestinian people as human shields.”

The resolution also addresses “a small minority of individuals [that] has used the conflict to sow animosity and violence in support of terrorist groups such as Hamas.”

Manchin said, “Israel remains our most trusted ally in the Middle East, and our opposition to Hamas’ brutal terrorist attacks must be bipartisan and unwavering – we cannot let them win. Since the terrible events of Oct. 7, we have witnessed a dramatic rise in violence and antisemitism in support of Hamas’ ideology. These heinous efforts to sow division and animosity are un-American and unacceptable.”

Collins said that “On Oct. 7, Hamas brutally murdered more than 1,200 innocent individuals, abducted 240 hostages ranging in age from 10 months to 85 years old, and viciously raped and mutilated Israeli women. In total, these despicable attacks resulted in the greatest loss of Jewish lives in a single day since the Holocaust. This bipartisan resolution sends a strong message against all antisemitic acts and violence committed in support of Hamas’ terrorist ideology.”

The resolution contains a number of points. Among them, it says the First Amendment doesn’t provide the right to engage in defamation or to incite violence in support of terrorist organizations. It notes the pro-Hamas, anti-Israel protests across the country – mostly peaceful but a few that have sown hate and violence.

While Hamas uses civilians to shield itself, the resolution says, Israel uses its military to shield its citizens. And Hamas has co-opted Jewish-Palestinian dialog to create division and undermine peace.

The resolution then goes on to condemn the Oct. 7 attack, recognize the universal right of religious freedom, encourage the Constitutional right to peaceably assemble and practice religion without perpetrating violence, acknowledge Israel’s right to exist and the effort Palestinians and Israelis must make to mutually prosper and oppose terrorism, and reaffirm the U.S. commitment to oppose terrorism.

The resolution is with the Foreign Relations Committee. As of Friday afternoon, only Manchin and Collins had signed on.