The White House on Monday maintained its support for keeping the military COVID-19 vaccine mandate in place as House and Senate Republicans threaten to block the national defense bill from moving forward unless the rule is lifted.
In August 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin issued a memo making COVID vaccines mandatory for all service members. Republicans have been demanding the vaccine mandate on service members be lifted for months as unvaccinated troops have continued to be subjected to punishments despite President Joe Biden declaring in September that the pandemic is “over.” As a result, the military is also struggling with recruitment and retainment.
The White House said over the weekend that the Biden administration was considering repealing the mandate after speaking with House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy, but White House National Security Council coordinator for strategic communications John Kirby on Monday seemed to signal otherwise.
“Secretary Austin’s been very clear that he opposes the repeal of that vaccine mandate, and the president actually concurs with the secretary that we need to continue to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID 19,” Kirby said Monday.
Kirby said administration officials are “aware that Congress is putting a repeal” for the mandate in the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which sets military policy and spending levels for the Pentagon and other agencies in the country’s national defense infrastructure, but he added that vaccines “are saving lives, including our men and women in uniform.”
“So, this remains very, very much a health and readiness issue for the force,” Kirby said. “And again, the president supports Secretary Austin and the opposition to a repeal of the mandate.”
McCarthy, R-Calif., over the weekend said Republicans are working through the NDAA and said lawmakers “will secure lifting that vaccine mandate on our military.”
McCarthy warned that the NDAA “will not move” if the vaccine mandate on service members is not lifted.
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