WASHINGTON — Republicans have won their protracted effort to overturn the Pentagon’s coronavirus vaccine mandate, according to Fox News.
Congress is expected to remove the Pentagon’s mandate requiring troops to receive the coronavirus vaccine in its annual defense policy bill, which the House of Representatives is scheduled to vote on later this week, Fox News reported Tuesday.
Republicans on Tuesday succeeded in getting rid of the mandate in the National Defense Authorization Act 2023, despite objections to the measure from the White House and Department of Defense a day earlier.
It comes after a group of 13 Republican senators led by Sen. Rand Paul (R-Ky.) wrote a letter last week calling on Congress to overturn the mandate granted by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in August 2021, which urged all military members to do so receive the vaccine or face expulsion if you refuse an order.
“The United States simply cannot afford to lay off our brave men and women in uniform and lose the investment we have made in each one of them because of incompetent bureaucratic policies,” the GOP members wrote.
Other signers were Sens. Lindsey Graham (RS.C.), Ted Cruz (R-Texas), Sen. Josh Hawley (R-Mis.), Tommy Tuberville (R-Ala.), Roger Marshall (R-Kansas), Ron Johnson (R-Wisc., Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Steve Daines (R-Mont.), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.), Mike Lee (R-Utah), and Rick Scott and Marco Rubio (R-Fla.)
The letter’s signatories had also requested that any troops dismissed for refusing orders to obtain the vaccine be reinstated with back pay, noting that by April 3,400 had been dismissed. However, according to Fox News, that request will not appear in the $847 billion bill.
The NDAA sets defense policy and spending priorities for fiscal 2023. Without his approval, the Pentagon must continue with the 2022 version and continue resolution funds until the matter is resolved. This funding is expected to expire on December 16th.
Though Democrats broadly supported the mandate, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) backed away from his party on Friday, telling Politico he was “open” to discussing its repeal if it would move the legislation forward, and stated that the “pandemic is over”. Low.”
“I was a very strong supporter of the vaccine mandate when we did it, a very strong supporter of the Covid restrictions put in place by the DoD and others,” Smith said. “But at this point, does it make sense to have that policy as of August 2021?” Smith said, according to Politico.
President Joe Biden himself had told Republican House Leader Kevin McCarthy he was ready to consider repealing the mandate, but Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin’s opposition to the measure changed his mind, White House press secretary Karine Jeanne-Pierre said , on Monday.
“The President told him he would think about it, but also made it clear that he wanted to consult with the Pentagon,” she said. “Since … the secretary of defense has recommended that the mandate be retained as COVID vaccination requirements were introduced to keep our service members safe and healthy and ready for duty.”
The coronavirus vaccine is one of dozens the Department of Defense has mandated for troops — something the military has been doing “almost since its inception,” according to the Army. National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Monday the need for the vaccines was “very much a health and preparedness issue for the force.”
“[Biden] Continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and empowered against COVID-19,” Kirby said. “As you’ve all seen for yourself, vaccines save lives, including our men and women in uniform.”
But Republicans argued that repealing the mandate would boost military recruitment, which is about 23% below annual targets, according to the GOP brief.
“Due to costs and recruitment challenges, the loss of thousands of troops due to their immunization status is a preparedness issue that the [Pentagon] should be taken seriously,” Republicans wrote in the letter. “While the Department of Defense certainly needs to make decisions that bolster military readiness, the implications of the mandate are at odds with the readiness of our armed forces, and the policy must be reversed.”
The final text of the bill is expected to be released Tuesday, and the House of Representatives will take up the matter on Thursday.
https://nypost.com/2022/12/06/house-to-repeal-military-covid-19-vax-mandate-in-defense-bill/ House to remove military COVID-19 Vax mandate in defense bill