Congress set to repeal military COVID-19 vaccine mandate in defense spending bill

The mandate that members of the U.S. military must be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus would be rescinded this week if Congress passes the annual defense spending bill, The Associated Press is reporting.

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House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., lobbied President Joe Biden to end the requirement that members of the military get COVID-19 vaccinations, according to the AP.

“These heroes deserve justice now that the mandate is no more,” McCarthy said.

The National Defense Authorization Act (or NDAA) was unveiled on Tuesday night and it included rescinding the mandate.

A bloc of GOP senators, led by Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky, has threatened to try to stall the bill, Politico reported. The group says the bill must end the mandate and reinstate troops with back pay.

White House press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Monday that Biden told McCarthy he would consider lifting the mandate, but Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had recommended it be kept.

“I would remind all of you that the Pentagon has a range of vaccines it has long required,” Jean-Pierre said Monday. “So, this is nothing new.”

The Department of Defense announced in August 2021 that all members of the military would be required to get a COVID-19 vaccination.

National Security Council spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Tuesday that both Austin and Biden were in favor of keeping the vaccine mandate in place.

“Secretary Austin has been very clear that he opposes the repeal of the vaccine policy, and the president actually concurs with the secretary of defense. He continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19.”

Congressional leaders say they want to bring the bill up for a vote in the House this week. The Senate will take up the bill quickly afterward and after a passing vote, send the measure to Biden for his signature.

The legislation mandates that the Pentagon rescind the vaccine mandate within 30 days of the president signing the bill into law.

The $858 billion spending plan includes money for a 4.6% pay raise for troops starting in January and upward of $19 billion in funding to help pay for the rising cost of materials for construction, fuel prices and other military purchases, the Military Times reported.

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