Both the Biden White House and Congress are considering proposals from top lawmakers to unravel the Pentagon’s regulations for booting out service members who refuse the COVID-19 vaccine protocol.
Reports confirm that the annual defense bill, which is expected to be unveiled next week, could include a compromise amendment doing just that. Speaking to Politico on Saturday, Rep. Adam Smith (D-WA) said the military may soon discard the vaccination mandate.
He added that the requirement may no longer be logical. Smith asked “does it make sense to have that policy from August, 2021?”
Reuters also reported on Friday that Rep. Kevin McCarthy (R-CA), the GOP nominee to be the next Speaker of the House, said that House and Senate leaders have reached an agreement on the issue.
Later Friday evening, McCarthy told Fox News that President Joe Biden, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY), current House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-CA), Sen. Mitch McConnell (R-KY), and himself reached an agreement across the aisle to mothball the mandate.
This would be fantastic. Kevin McCarthy vows to lift vaccine mandate for military https://t.co/rYtRdlj49g
— Laura Ingraham (@IngrahamAngle) December 4, 2022
The Biden administration’s vaccine mandate could be headed for the scrap heap, but the White House may still balk at the proposal.
Spokesperson Olivia Dalton told Reuters that McCarthy brought up the proposal to the president and that her boss “would consider it.” She cautioned, however, that the “Secretary of Defense has recommended retaining the mandate, and the president supports his position.”
Under the policy, the Army has discharged 1,841 members for rejecting the vaccine, the Navy 2,032, and the Marine Corps 3,717. Republican lawmakers and governors are not only pressing for tearing down the mandate but also reinstating troops with back pay who were discharged.
This is an addition Rep. Smith will not agree to. Declaring “orders are not optional in the military,” the Democratic representative said he and others oppose reinstatement or back pay.
He also noted that current Pentagon policy does not require COVID-19 booster shots.
The defense bill is behind schedule and expected to be released this week. A vote on the $847 billion package will come shortly, with or without an agreement for ending the vaccine mandate. Some in the House have already announced they will prioritize the move when the GOP takes over.