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The U.S. House of Representatives passed legislation Thursday authorizing $858 billion in national defense funding, including reversing the U.S. military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Lawmakers approved a final version to repeal the mandate through the passage of the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual defense bill.
The 4,000-page legislation advanced with a solid bipartisan majority, 350-80, which requires the Pentagon to rescind the Covid vaccine mandate for active duty service members within 30 days of its enactment.
The bill also includes several policy provisions, including a 4.6% pay raise for military service members, strengthening defense strategies using air force, land warfare, cybersecurity, and increasing U.S. support for Ukraine and NATO, as reported by CNN.
While the bill would remove the vaccine mandate for U.S. troops, it would not reinstate service members who were discharged or had their benefits slashed for refusing to be immunized against COVID.
On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby asserted that President Joe Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin opposed repealing the Defense Department’s vaccine mandate.
“Secretary Austin’s been very clear that he opposes the repeal of the vaccine mandate, and the president actually concurs with the secretary of defense,” Kirby stated, adding that Biden “continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19 … Vaccines are saving lives, including our men and women in uniform.”
Part of the language in the new NDAA will order the Pentagon to find a means of compensating service members punished for refusing to be vaccinated.
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-CA) said Tuesday night that the Biden administration’s COVID vaccine mandate for the U.S. military would end.
“The end of President Biden’s military COVID vaccine mandate is a victory for our military and for common sense,” McCarthy said in a statement. “Last week, I told the president directly: it’s time to end the COVID vaccine mandate and rehire our service members.”
White House Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters Wednesday that President Biden would “look at the NDAA in its entirety, and make his judgment on that” on wether he would sign the bill.
This is a developing story; check back in for updates and more information.