The White House said Tuesday it ‘strongly opposes’ a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that prohibits the Pentagon from punishing or dishonorably discharging any service member who refuses a vaccine.
‘The Administration strongly opposes section 716, which would detract from readiness and limit a commander’s options for enforcing good order and discipline when a Service member fails to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccination,’ the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement on the yearly bill that funds the Pentagon.
‘To enable a uniformed force to fight with discipline, commanders must have the ability to give orders and take appropriate disciplinary measures.’
The Pentagon ordered all service members to get vaccinated last month and didn’t rule out court martialing those who don’t.
More than 800,000 service members out of around 1.4 million still needed to get their shots at the time of the mandate, according to Pentagon data.
But during the budget bill’s markup under the House Armed Services Committee, an amendment, now section 716, proposed by Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., made its way into the bill that prohibited ‘any discharge but honorable’ for vaccine refusal.
‘I am appalled that the Biden Administration is trying to remove my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that prevents anything but an honorable discharge for service members who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine,’ Green said in a statement to DailyMail.com. ‘This was a bipartisan amendment — every Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee agreed to it.’
Section 716 notes ‘many Americans have reservations about taking a vaccine that has only been available for less than a year.’
‘No American who raises their hand to serve our Nation should be punished for making a highly personal medical decision,’ Green said earlier this month.
Republicans have balked at vaccine mandates across the board.
‘Our readiness, our ability to take on the enemy is being undermined by forcing young people, people who are perfectly healthy, perfectly able to fend off Covid, and are required to have the vaccine,’ Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., told DailyMail.com in an interview.
The White House also took issue with section 720, which exempts those who previously had a coronavirus infection from needing to take the shot. The bill states that service members can be exempted for ‘administrative, medical, or religious reasons, including on the basis of possessing an antibody test result demonstrating previous COVID–19 infection.’
The White House said that Section 720 creates ‘a new and overly broad exemption from the vaccination requirement for previous infection that would undermine the effectiveness of the requirement.’
Since the Pentagon’s announcing of the mandate, different branches have imposed different deadlines for vaccinations.
Active duty members of the Army will have to be vaccinated by Dec. 15, while active-duty members of the Air Force will have to get their shot by Nov. 2. Active duty marines and Navy sailors have to get their jab by Nov. 28, while reservists have until Dec. 28.
Reserve Air Force personnel have to get their shot by Dec. 2 while reserve members of the Army have until next June.
The cost of funding the nation’s military has raised $24 billion to $778 billion under this year’s budget.
The House is expected to vote on the NDAA early Thursday morning after a marathon vote of amendments, and the bill is likely to pass, notably without support from the right-wing Freedom Caucus and progressive Democrats.
The House Republican Caucus came out in support of the bill.
‘While President Biden is embroiled in countless national security crises, House Republicans are committed to supporting our troops and keeping America safe and secure through the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2022,’ read a summary of the caucus’ views.
But the Freedom Caucus released a statement urging GOP members to vote against the NDAA to hold the Biden administration ‘accountable’ for the frenzied Afghanistan withdrawal, to fight against ‘turning our military into a progressive social experiment,’ and to protest an amendment that adds women to the draft.
Freedom Caucus Chair Andy Biggs said at a press conference Wednesday afternoon he believes his caucus is unified in opposing the bill.
‘I don’t think there is a dissent.’
Buck told DailyMail.com he is ‘leaning toward voting against’ the bill due to its enormous cost and frustrations with the military.
He called the $85 billion in equipment left behind in Afghanistan after the withdrawal ‘absolutely horrendous.’ ‘The idea that we’re just going to be writing blank checks for the military is terrible.’
‘We have weak military leadership who will not stand up to political leadership,’ he added.
Buck said that he, like other Republicans, was concerned about critical race theory being ‘forced upon an unwilling military.’
Buck added that the military has an ‘uphill battle to regain trust of members of Congress,’ after the drawdown of the Afghanistan War.
‘Generals have lied to us for 20 years about how the political and military structure in Afghanistan would withstand the Taliban,’ he said.
Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., one of the caucus’ most prominent faces, came out in support of the NDAA.
‘On behalf of the tens of thousands of military families in Northwest Florida, I’m proud to support this year’s National Defense Authorization Act. With this legislation, America will win the future,’ he wrote on Twitter Tuesday night.
Source: Morgan Phillips – DAILY MAIL