Texas Republican Sen. Ted Cruz and a group of 13 additional GOP senators have introduced a new bill to protect military service members from punishment for declining the COVID-19 vaccine.
The Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots (AMERICANS) Act of 2022 is designed to counter the Biden administration’s efforts to coerce and punish Armed Forces personnel, including accountability measures to increase transparency.
“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Biden administration is trying to coerce our men and women in uniform to violate their conscience and religious beliefs, let alone on an issue as polarizing as the COVID-19 vaccine. The AMERICANS Act will ensure that these and similar efforts to politicize our military on this issue are blocked,” Cruz said in a statement regarding the bill.
Cruz previously sponsored an amendment to protect service members who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine. The senator also offered the vaccine exemption and reporting requirements as amendments to the most recent National Defense Authorization Act.
In addition to Cruz, GOP co-sponsors included Sens. Marco Rubio (FL), Josh Hawley (MO), Roger Marshall (KS), Ron Johnson (WI), Mike Crapo (ID), Kevin Cramer (ND), Rand Paul (KY), John Hoeven (ND), James Lankford (OK), James Risch (ID), Rick Scott (FL), Mike Braun (IN), and Steve Daines (MT).
The bill would specifically prohibit the Secretary of Defense from taking “any adverse action against a covered member based solely on the refusal of such member to receive a vaccine for COVID-19.”
The legislation would also reinstate military members who have already been dismissed due to declining a COVID-19 vaccine and “reinstate the member at the grade held by the member immediately prior to the involuntary separation of the member.”
Last month, defense officials told Congress that about 3,400 troops have been involuntarily separated from service for refusing the mandated vaccine, according to the Military Times.
“Of that group, about 70% have received general discharges, a designation that allows them to receive most veterans benefits and potentially rejoin the military at a later date,” the report noted. “The other 30% have received honorable discharges. Congress last year forbade military leaders from issuing dishonorable discharges for vaccine refusal.”
The Military Times also reported that about 87% of military members are at least partially vaccinated, with nearly 100% among active-duty troops. The deadlines for the Army Reserve and National Guard are still ahead, currently scheduled for June.
Cruz ripped President Joe Biden in January claiming he was “punishing” service members for asking for a religious exemption to the vaccine.
“President Biden is wrong for punishing our Servicemembers over their religious freedom,” Cruz wrote.
“I am pleased to see a judge issued a stay against Biden’s authoritarian vaccine mandate,” he added.
President Biden is wrong for punishing our Servicemembers over their religious freedom.
I am pleased to see a judge issued a stay against Biden’s authoritarian vaccine mandate.
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) January 4, 2022
In December, Cruz served as part of a team of conservative lawmakers who filed an amicus brief in the case of U.S. Navy Seals v. Biden.
“Plaintiffs’ religious liberty and the government’s asserted interest in protecting our service members from COVID-19 need not be in conflict, especially where, as here, the individuals seeking an exemption are willing to adopt non-vaccination measures to protect themselves and others from the spread of COVID-19,” the lawmakers wrote.