Republicans on Capitol Hill are demanding that Democrats agree to remove the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate before passing the military’s latest budget appropriation.
Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky, led the charge last week, announcing that he and a group of Republican Senators would refuse to vote for the Department’s annual budget appropriation until the vaccine mandate is gone. Congress has approved the military’s budget appropriation every year since 1960.
“Congress should take action, and we are talking action,” Paul said at a press conference last week. “We will not vote to get on the NDAA, the Defense Authorization bill, unless we have a vote on ending this military vaccine mandate.”
Sen. Rick Scott, R-Fla., echoed Paul in his own comments last week, adding that Congress should do “an assessment” of how the the mandate has been implemented.
Republicans in the House are taking the same position, with likely incoming House Speaker Kevin McCarthy vowing that the defense bill will not move forward until the vaccine mandate is gone.
“We’re working through what is the [National Defense Authorization Act], the national defense bill, we will secure lifting that vaccine mandate on our military. Because what we’re finding is, they’re kicking out men and women that have been serving. … That’s the first victory of having a Republican majority, and we’d like to have more of those victories, and we should start moving those now,” McCarthy told host Maria Bartiromo on “Sunday Morning Futures.“
President Biden’s White House says the administration is “considering” an end to the mandate, though Biden has noted that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin still supports it.
So far, the U.S. has targeted thousands of military personnel for refusing to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
More than 20 Republican governors signed a letter to Biden earlier this month requesting an end to the mandate as well. They argued the policy made it far more difficult to recruit members to the National Guard.