After heavy pressure from Republican lawmakers, the defense bill released Tuesday night would require the Biden administration to dump its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military personnel.
Specifically, the final version of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) stated that no more than 30 days after its enactment, “the Secretary of Defense shall rescind the mandate that members of the Armed Forces be vaccinated against COVID-19.”
This would stop the practice of kicking troops out of the service who refuse to be jabbed. Over 8,000 have been discharged for not being vaccinated, and there are tens of thousands more who do not wish to submit to the shots.
The measure flies in the face of both the White House and the Pentagon, which declared recently that they support keeping the regulation.
National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters Tuesday that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin is not in favor of removing the mandate. He added that “the president actually concurs with the secretary of defense.”
— The Hill (@thehill) December 7, 2022
The defense policy bill is expected to be up for a vote this week in the House, followed by the same action in the Senate before it proceeds to the Oval Office. The compromise act is expected to reach President Joe Biden’s desk shortly.
If signed, the bill will authorize expenditures of $858 billion, of which $847 billion is for national defense.
There is not a provision for reinstatement of troops discharged for their refusal of the mandate, but some Republicans continue to push this corrective action as well.
Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) tweeted that next for the GOP is to “reinstate all members of the military wrongfully terminated due to vax.”
A key facet of the GOP argument was that the mandate added to the current recruiting crisis through forcing out those who declined the COVID-19 shots. The Pentagon countered that 98% of the military is vaccinated.
That, however, does not address those who forego recruitment due to the mandate.
A small group of Republican senators, including Rand Paul of Kentucky, had threatened to block passage of the NDAA unless troops who were discharged were reinstated with back pay. That battle will apparently be fought at a future time.