House passes defense measure removing COVID vaccine requirement

House passes defense measure removing COVID vaccine requirement

A plan to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine requirement for members of the U.S. military and allocate roughly $858 billion for national security was approved by the House on Thursday, marking the completion of one of the year’s final legislative tasks.

The package allocates around $45 billion more for defense programs than was sought by President Joe Biden, marking the second consecutive year that Congress greatly exceeded his request in an effort to increase the nation’s military competitiveness vis-à-vis China and Russia.

The bill was passed by the House by a vote of 350 to 80. It is now sent to the Senate, where it is likely to pass comfortably, and will subsequently be signed into law by the president.

To secure bipartisan support for the package, Democrats conceded to Republican requests that service members be exempt from the COVID-19 immunization mandate. The law directs Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to revoke the requirement he issued in August 2021. Just days ago, he expressed support for maintaining the mandate.

Rep. Adam Smith, chairman of the House Armed Services Committee and a Democrat, told his colleagues that the decision to impose the vaccine mandate was the correct one at the time.

“It saved lives and ensured that our force was as prepared as it could be for the epidemic,” Smith explained.

However, he stated that the instruction only needed the initial vaccine, and that protection has since diminished.

Smith stated, “It is time to change the policy.”

According to Republicans, the mandate hinders recruitment and retention efforts. Rep. Mike Rogers, the ranking Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, stated that he intended to evaluate who was negatively affected by the requirement in the next Congress “so we can try to revisit that and make them whole to the extent possible.”

When they denied the inoculation, more than 8,000 active-duty service men were fired for disobeying a valid order.

Rogers, who will become chairman of the Armed Services Committee in the next Congress, stated, “Some of the individuals who have moved on will not choose to return.”

Smith stated that he opposed measures to reward military personnel who disobeyed an order.

Smith stated, “Orders are mandatory in the United States military.” And if Congress is of the opinion that they are, I cannot conceive anything that would damage the order and discipline of our military more dramatically.

Military authorities have claimed for decades that personnel have been required to receive as many as 17 immunizations in order to maintain the health of the army, especially those who are deployed overseas. If they are not already immunized, recruits at military academies or basic training receive a series of vaccinations on their first day, including measles, mumps, and rubella. In addition, they receive annual flu injections in the fall.

Prior to the COVID epidemic, a minimal number of troops requested religious or other exemptions to any of the needed immunizations, according to service leaders.

However, the politicization of the COVID-19 vaccine prompted a flood of exemption requests from troops. As many as 16,000 religious exemptions have been granted or are seeking approval, but only about 190 have been granted. In addition, a few temporary and permanent medical exemptions have been given.

While the repeal of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate has garnered considerable attention, it comprises only one paragraph of a 4,408-page measure.

The defense policy law is crucial for influencing the future of the military. It specifies the maximum number of permitted service members in each branch of the military. It provides funding for specific important weapons programs and establishes compensation and perks. This year’s law allows funding for a 4.6% pay raise for military troops and civilian employees of the Defense Department.

The press secretary of the White House, Karine Jean-Pierre, backed the Pentagon’s COVID vaccination program, but stated that Biden will evaluate the measure “in its whole.”

Jean-Pierre stated, “We believe that the Republicans in Congress have opted to battle against the health and welfare of our troops rather than defend them.” And we believe that to be an error.

 

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