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COVID vaccine mandate for military dropped from defense bill despite Biden opposition

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said President Biden and Defense Secretary Austin support keeping the vaccine mandate in place.

Published: December 6, 2022 5:00pm

Updated: December 7, 2022 4:54am

Democrats and Republicans on the House and Senate Armed Services Committees have agreed to drop the COVID-19 vaccine mandate from the annual defense bill despite President Biden's opposition.

The new language of the bill without the vaccine mandate has to be adopted by the full House and Senate to become law. 

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) had maintained that the National Defense Authorization Act would not move forward with the vaccine mandate included. The California Republican confirmed the mandate has been removed from the legislation in a statement on Tuesday evening.

"The end of President Biden's military COVID vaccine mandate is a victory for our military and for common sense," said McCarthy. "Last week, I told the president directly: it's time to end the COVID vaccine mandate and rehire our service members.

"While I applaud the end of this onerous mandate — the Biden administration must go further. Unfortunately, the mandate has already had negative consequences for our military." 

National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said on Monday that President Biden and Defense Secretary Austin support keeping the vaccine mandate in place under the $847 billion NDAA for fiscal 2023.

"[The president] continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19," Kirby told reporters. "This remains very much a health and readiness issue for the force."

The compromise between lawmakers involved in crafting the NDAA also includes a requirement for the Defense Department to issue a report to Congress related to the service members who were penalized or discharged for violating the vaccine mandate, according to a GOP aide. 

In addition to dropping the vaccine mandate, some GOP senators had called for provisions in the legislation to be added to establish a process for service members who violated the mandate to re-enter the military. It is unclear if such provisions will be included in the final NDAA that's eventually put to a vote.

McCarthy said on Tuesday night that those who were discharged or penalized deserve justice.

"The Biden administration must correct service records and not stand in the way of re-enlisting any service member discharged simply for not taking the COVID vaccine," he said in a statement.

“Make no mistake: this is a win for our military. But in 28 days the real work begins – the new House Republican majority will work to finally hold the Biden administration accountable and assist the men and women in uniform who were unfairly targeted by this Administration,” he added.

Florida Republican Sen. Rick Scott made a similar statement earlier in the day.

"It's time to end the military's COVID vaccine mandate, immediately stop discharging these incredible men and women and reinstate those kicked out over inept bureaucratic policies with full back pay," he said.

Just the News reached out to House Armed Services Chairman Adam Smith and Senate Armed Services Committee Chairman Jack Reed for comment but did not receive a response before press time.

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