Rep. Greg Steube vows justice for troops punished for COVID-19 vaccine refusal
The House "can put riders on appropriations bills to tell the Department of Defense how they're going to give relief to these individuals," the Florida Republican explained.
Florida Republican Rep. Greg Steube is vowing to introduce legislation to obtain justice for those punished for refusing to comply with the military's COVID-19 vaccination mandate.
"I intend on filing my own bill," Steube said on the John Solomon Reports podcast Wednesday. "I am ... not naive" about prospects for passage of such a bill in a Democrat-controlled Senate, he said, "but thankfully, the House has the power of the purse, and ... when we do the appropriations process over the next year, we can put riders on appropriations bills to tell the Department of Defense how they're going to give relief to these individuals."
Military vaccine objectors have been subjected to penalties ranging from expulsion from military academies to loss of professional opportunities and benefits and even dishonorable discharge. Many were punished after being denied religious exemptions, only a minuscule fraction of which were approved by the military.
The military vaccine mandate has been found illegal in assorted rulings by both military and civilian tribunals.
Many long-tenured service members were coerced into getting the shot under threat of losing their retirement benefits, according to Steube, an Army veteran who was deployed to Iraq in 2006 during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
"Many of these people didn't have a choice," he said. "Their choice was either they retire at 18 or 19 years, which is right before their retirement, or they take the COVID vaccine. All of those people are going to get justice in the next year."
Steube noted that his legislation would include redress for military academy cadets punished for vaccine refusal.
"We have, I believe seven or eight Coast Guard cadets that were kicked out of the Coast Guard for refusing the vaccine," Steube said. "Those people need to be made whole, and if they want to go back into the [Coast Guard] Academy, they absolutely should get the authority and the right to make that decision to go back in and be held harmless from a very divisive woke military that we have run by [Defense Secretary Lloyd] Austin and President Biden."
On Thursday, the Senate voted 83-11 to pass the National Defense Authorization Act, an $858 billion defense spending bill that includes an end to the military vaccine mandate. The measure previously cleared the House by a 350-80 margin.
The White House has not yet indicated whether or not the president will sign the spending bill rescinding his vaccine mandate.