WASHINGTON — The White House and the Pentagon are pushing back against calls to end the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for troops as Congress debates a military spending plan, with some lawmakers pushing to drop the requirement to receive the shot.
Many Republicans — and even some Democrats — are calling for the Biden administration’s push for a COVID vaccine to be scrapped in the gun budget legislation expected to be finalized and released this week.
“Congress must take action, and until we vote today to end the military vaccine mandate, we will not vote to pass the NDAA — the defense authorization bill,” Sen. Rand Paul, R-, said Wednesday. Ky., one of the main opponents of the GOP at the last press conference.
But President Joe Biden and his administration see no reason to waive that requirement, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby told reporters on Monday.
According to Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s August 2021 COVID shot order, all military personnel must receive the vaccine. can be expelled for refusing the order.
“Obviously, we are aware that Congress is considering repealing the NDAA’s vaccine mandate,” he said. “Secretary Austin has made it clear that he opposes repealing the vaccine mandate, and the president actually agrees with the secretary of defense.”
The NDAA sets defense policy and spending priorities for fiscal year 2023. Without his approval, the Pentagon must continue to operate 2022 version and continuing resolution funds until the matter is resolved. This fund is expected to end on December 16.
To help move the legislation forward, Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.) Friday in politics The report said that while he was a “very strong supporter” of the mandate when it was enacted, he was “open” to discussing removing it as congressional leaders continue to craft an $847 billion bill for a vote this week .
“At this point, does it make sense to have this policy from August 2021?” Smith insisted that the “pandemic is over,” according to Politico.
House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy raised the issue in a meeting with Biden last week. The president was initially open to discussing the issue, but Austin’s opposition to the measure has hardened his mind, White House press secretary Carine Jean-Pierre said Monday.
“The president told him he would look into it, but also said he wanted to consult with the Pentagon,” he said. “Since then … the secretary of defense has recommended that the mandate be maintained because the COVID vaccination requirement is in place to keep our service members safe and healthy and ready for duty.”
At Paul’s press conference last week, Sen. Lindsey Graham (R.C.) also said he would not vote to advance the bill “unless we have the votes to change that policy,” noting that he is struggling with military recruitment rates.
“It doesn’t make sense to me freeing thousands of people “For whatever reason—and for good reason, I’m sure—at a time when we need to get more people into the military.”
But Kirby, a retired Navy admiral and former Pentagon spokesman, said requiring vaccination “remains very much a health and readiness issue for the forces.”
“[Biden] We continue to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted against COVID-19,” Kirby said. “As you can all see, vaccines save lives, including those of our men and women in uniform.”
The coronavirus vaccine is one of dozens that the Department of Defense has given troops — something the military has done “almost since its inception,” according to the Army.
“On February 5, 1777, against orders from Congress, Washington ordered the army inoculated against smallpox,” the army said. In a 2018 article. “After only a few months, the disease was under control and the death rate from smallpox dropped from about 1 in 12 to 1 in 10,000 soldiers.”