President Joe Biden denounced Senator Tommy Tuberville’s blocking of hundreds of military nominations during a joint news conference with the Finnish president in Helsinki on Thursday, calling the Republican’s actions «totally irresponsible.»

Military promotions are routinely approved by Congress, but Tuberville of Alabama, who sits on the Senate Armed Services Committee, has blocked hundreds of such appointments, citing his objection to a Pentagon policy that provides paid time off. and reimburses service members for travel expenses. and dependents seeking abortions.

Biden, standing next to Finnish President Sauli Niinistö, said he would be willing to talk to Tuberville “if I thought there was any chance he would change his ridiculous position. He is endangering the security of the United States with what he is doing.»

“I hope the Republican Party will stand up, stand up and do something about it,” Biden continued.

«The idea that we don’t have a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the idea that we have all these promotions that are on hold right now and we don’t know what’s going to happen, the idea that we’re injecting into fundamental foreign policy decisions, it that it is in fact an internal social debate on social issues, it is strange,” Biden said. “I don’t remember it ever happening, ever. And it’s totally irresponsible, in my opinion.»

“I’m sure the mainstream GOP no longer supports what you’re doing, but they need to stand up and be counted,” Biden said. «This is how it ends.»

Sen. Tommy Tuberville, R-Alabama, has suspended hundreds of military nominations in protest of the Pentagon’s abortion policies.Tom Williams / CQ Roll Call via AP file

Tuberville told NBC News that he would consider ending his holds if the Senate agrees to a vote on whether the current policy stands and the Pentagon and White House vow to rescind it if the vote fails.

«If it fails, you have to go back to the original,» Tuberville said of the administration’s policy. He had previously said that he would lift his withholding only if the policy is terminated.

The senator said he is willing to meet with Biden to work toward a compromise, but expressed disappointment that Biden had criticized him abroad.

“If he had been president, he would have called me a long time ago,” Tuberville said. “But you know, I understand that we have a lot of problems in this country. We have a lot of problems abroad and, and he got, that’s a tough job. I can’t imagine doing that. So, you know, he got really excited about me and foreign soil. I wish he hadn’t done that,” he said.

Biden’s comment comes as criticism of the senator’s blockade continues to mount.

On Thursday, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said CNN that the stalled appointments are affecting both national security and military readiness.

“This is a matter of national security. It is a preparation problem. And let’s not kid ourselves, I think any member of the Senate Armed Services Committee knows that,» Austin told CNN’s Wolf Blitzer.

“We have a policy that allows our troops access to uncovered reproductive health care, and I think that’s an important policy,” Austin said.

«One in five of my troops … is a woman, and our women provide tremendous value to this force, and I think we need to do everything we can to take care of them,» he added.

The defense secretary noted that he spoke with Tuberville in March and said he will «continue to engage» with the Alabama Republican to try to clear the impasse, though he added that service members will still be reimbursed for abortion-related travel expenses. .

“That is our policy,” Austin said.

Lloyd Austin attends a resignation ceremony for former commanding general David Berger at Marine Barracks Washington
Lloyd Austin attends a resignation ceremony for former Commanding General David Berger at Marine Barracks in Washington earlier this month. Tom Williams/CQ-Roll Call, Inc via Getty Images file

Some Republicans have also begun to criticize Tuberville’s tactics. Sen. Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, a longtime advocacy hawk, told NBC News that he, too, opposes the Pentagon’s abortion policy, but said the blockade must end.

«We have to end the issue of delaying promotions,» Graham said, adding that he will also «call for a vote to change the policy.»

As a result of the Tuberville arrests, the Marine Corps does not have a confirmed chief for the first time in more than 150 years, and a Pentagon spokesman said that as many as 650 military leaders positions may be vacant by the end of the year if holds continue.

Austin’s comments echoed those of Air Force General Charles «CQ» Brown, Biden’s pick to serve as the next chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who on Tuesday told the Armed Services Committee that the retentions could affect readiness, with less experienced deputies having to take leadership positions temporarily, and could discourage junior officers from remaining in the military while creating financial and logistical burdens for troop families.

A Tuberville spokesperson told NBC News in May, when Brown’s nomination was announced, that the hold would also apply to Brown. The term of the current chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Army General Mark Milley, ends in October.