President Biden’s administration is furious that Congress is poised to remove the military’s universal vaccine mandate, a major concession to Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had been pushing Congress to keep the vaccine requirement as a non-negotiable, but Republicans appear to have successfully negotiated an end to the policy in exchange for passing the military’s budget proposal, according to the Washington Post. Biden officials argue ending the mandate will cost lives, while Republicans say they are standing up for individual autonomy.
Biden officials have reportedly complained that ending the mandate will cause logistical problems for deploying troops overseas, as many countries have their own vaccine mandates. They also fear that outbreaks of COVID-19 in the ranks could disrupt military readiness.
“We continue to believe that repealing the vaccine mandate is a mistake,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. “Making sure our troops are ready to defend this country and prepared to do so, that remains the president’s priority and the vaccine requirement for Covid does just that.
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“But Republicans in Congress have obviously decided that they’d rather fight against the health and well-being of those troops, rather than protecting them,” he added. “So we still believe it’s a mistake.”
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Biden and Austin imposed the military-wide vaccine mandate in August 2021. Since then, thousands of personnel have been discharged or otherwise sidelined for refusing to take the vaccine.
The military requirement was the only version of a vaccine mandate Biden was able to successfully secure. His administration sought to impose a vaccine-or-test mandate on businesses through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but the move was deemed illegal.
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While the military’s mandate will likely end in the coming weeks, the vast majority of personnel in the armed forces are already vaccinated.