President Biden’s administration is furious that Congress is about to scrap the military’s universal vaccine mandate, a major concession to Republicans on Capitol Hill.
Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin had pushed Congress to keep the vaccine requirement as non-negotiable, but Republicans appear to have successfully negotiated an end to the policy in exchange for passing the government’s budget proposal. army, according to the Washington Post. Biden officials say ending the term will cost lives, while Republicans say they stand for individual autonomy.
Biden officials have reportedly complained that ending the term would cause logistical problems for deploying troops overseas, as many countries have their own vaccination mandates. They also fear that outbreaks of COVID-19 in the ranks could disrupt military preparedness.
“We continue to believe that the repeal of the vaccine mandate is wrong,” White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby said Wednesday. “Making sure our troops are ready and prepared to defend this country remains the President’s priority and the Covid vaccine requirement does just that.
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“But Republicans in Congress have obviously decided that they would rather fight the health and well-being of these troops than protect them,” he added. “So we still think it’s a mistake.”
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Biden and Austin imposed the military-wide vaccination mandate in August 2021. Since then, thousands of personnel have been fired 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 testing mandate on the companies through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), but the move was deemed illegal.
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While the army’s tenure will likely end in the coming weeks, the vast majority of armed forces personnel are already vaccinated.