President Biden’s administration is furious that Congress is ready to roll back the military’s universal vaccination mandate, a major concession to Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin have pushed Congress to keep the vaccine requirement non-negotiable, but Republicans appear to have successfully negotiated to end the policy in exchange for accepting the military’s budget proposal, according to the Washington Post. Biden officials argue that ending the mandate would cost lives, while Republicans are fighting for individual autonomy.
Biden officials have reportedly complained that ending the mandate would cause logistical problems in deploying troops overseas, as many countries have their own vaccination mandates. They also fear that the spread of COVID-19 in the ranks could disrupt military training.
“We continue to believe that repealing the vaccine mandate was a mistake,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. “Making sure our troops are prepared and ready to defend this country remains the president’s top priority, and the Covid vaccine requirement does just that.
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“But Republicans in Congress have clearly decided that they would rather fight against their health and well-being than protect them,” he added. “So we still believe it was a mistake.”
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Biden and Austin introduced a military vaccine mandate in August 2021. Since then, thousands of employees have been fired or otherwise dismissed for refusing to get vaccinated.
The military requirement was the only version of the vaccine mandate that Biden was able to successfully secure. His administration tried to impose a vaccine or testing mandate on businesses through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but the move was ruled illegal.
Although the military’s mandate may expire in the coming weeks, a large number of armed forces personnel have already been vaccinated.