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December 6, 2022

GOP Flexes Muscle Against Military Vax Mandate

One of the Biden administration’s most destructive policies may soon be repealed if Republicans stick to their guns.

Back in September, Joe Biden finally declared that the pandemic is over. But his administration still wrongly insists that all young, strong, able-bodied American service members must be vaccinated.

And these people wonder why they can’t hit their recruitment numbers.

The administration’s onerous vax mandate memo, which was issued by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin in August 2021, may finally be put to death, though, if Republicans hold firm on their promise to block the Pentagon’s annual spending bill unless and until the mandate is repealed.

That bill, which falls under the National Defense Authorization Act, is a big one: roughly $800 billion. And House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy — who hopes to one day soon be speaker of the House — said Sunday that he’d worked out an agreement to remove the mandate directly with Joe Biden. White House officials, who’ve become accustomed to cleaning up after this president, later disputed that characterization, so we’ll see.

“Leader McCarthy raised this with the president, and the president told him he would consider it,” spokeswoman Olivia Dalton said in a statement Sunday. “The secretary of defense has recommended retaining the mandate, and the president supports his position. Discussions about the NDAA are ongoing.”

“We lost a million people to this virus,” Austin told reporters on Saturday. “A million people died in the United States of America. We lost hundreds in DOD. So this mandate has kept people healthy.”

Has it? Or has youth and natural immunity kept our military healthy?

Austin didn’t offer any support for his claim of “hundreds” of dead warriors, but we do know that young people are at far lower risk of mortality than the elderly and the otherwise infirm, and we do know that myocarditis is a serious potential side effect of the vaccine, and we also know that the American military has lost many thousands of perfectly healthy warriors to the vaccine mandate — those who’ve been cycled out for refusing to take the shot.

“I’m the guy” who ordered the military to require the vaccine, Austin added. “I support continuation of vaccinating the troops.”

He’s also the guy who’s responsible for our military-wide failure to meet its recruitment numbers.

Despite Austin’s ignorance, McCarthy seemed confident on Sunday, when he told Fox News’s Maria Bartiromo that this would be the first victory for a Republican-controlled House.

“We’re working through what is the national defense bill,” he said. “We will secure lifting that vaccine mandate on our military. Because what we’re finding is they’re kicking out men and women that have been serving. … That’s the first victory of having a Republican majority, and we’d like to have more of those victories, and we should start moving those now.”

Asked whether it would definitively be removed from the NDAA, McCarthy replied: “Yes, it will. Otherwise the bill will not move.”

Clearly, either McCarthy or Biden is going to blink. And as this would be McCarthy’s first real test as the presumptive House leader, it had better not be him.

This push to repeal the vax requirement got a boost last week, when more than 20 Republican governors sent a letter to Biden asking him to remove it, arguing that it has hurt National Guard recruitment. The truth is, the mandate has hurt military recruiting across the board, but the Guard is of particular interest to the governors, since they’re responsible for its activation in the event of unrest or natural disaster.

Perhaps more significantly, the move to repeal got another boost recently from Washington Democrat Adam Smith. “We haven’t resolved it, but it is very fair to say that it’s in discussion,” Smith said recently, noting that the mandate may not be logical anymore.

You’re telling us.

“I was a very strong supporter of the vaccine mandate when we did it,” Smith added, “a very strong supporter of the COVID restrictions put in place by DOD and others. But at this point in time, does it make sense to have that policy from August 2021? That is a discussion that I am open to and that we’re having.”

It’s about time. The pandemic is over, and it’s a good sign that at least one Democrat has the good sense to admit that the vax mandate is now bad policy, even if he can’t admit that it was always bad policy.

UPDATE: In a Fox News op-ed posted earlier today, Republican Senators Rand Paul and Rick Scott argue forcefully against the military’s vax mandate. They write:

“We will not vote to move forward with the NDAA bill until the Senate votes on our amendment to not only prohibit discharges from the Armed Forces based solely on a service member’s COVID-19 vaccination status, but also reinstate those who may have already been separated, with back pay. … Let’s not forget that the mandate ignores natural immunity. Eighty percent of young people have already contracted COVID. By compelling the young to inject a vaccine into their bodies, they are accepting a risk of myocarditis, with limited benefit in terms of decreased risk of severe infection. Whether the argument is science, military readiness, or freedom, the answer is the same — end the mandates and reinstate those who lost their positions taking this stand.”

UPDATE: In a victory for Republicans, House Democrats have agreed to language in the NDAA that repeals the onerous vaccine mandate for U.S. service members. It’s not yet clear whether the warriors who’ve been separated for refusing to take the vaccine will be reinstated with back pay, so there’s still work to be done.

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