Seven Senate Republicans have vowed to withhold support for Defense Department funding if the Democrat-led chamber won’t vote on ending the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for service members.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said at a news conference Wednesday the group “will not vote to get on the NDAA – the defense authorization bill – unless we have a vote on ending this military vaccine mandate.”
Paul is joined by Sens. Mike Braun of Indiana, Ted Cruz of Texas, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Mike Lee of Utah and Rick Scott of Florida, NBC News reported.
Paul is in line to become the top Republican on the committee that oversees the federal government’s pandemic response, the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee.
The threat to withhold support could delay final passage of the annual bill, NBC noted, but it won’t prevent the Senate from eventually voting on it.
Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin announced in August 2021 the COVID-19 vaccine would become mandatory for all service members on active duty or in the Ready Reserve, including the National Guard.
Graham told reporters Wednesday the mandate has exacerbated the military’s recruiting woes.
“The problem here is that we’re having a dilemma we haven’t had in decades — and that’s finding enough people serving,” Graham said. “Our recruiting goals are way short. The conflict in the world is getting worse, not better. We need more people in the military, not less.”
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In October, amid the vaccine mandate, complaints of “woke” policies and indoctrination, and a tight jobs market, the Army fell 25% short of its recruitment goal this year, about 15,000 soldiers.
Cruz, R-Texas suggested Wednesday the Biden administration was using the mandate to “purge” from the military conservatives, who have been more apt to choose not to take the mRNA vaccines.
“I think they’re using it as an excuse from the enlisted level, all the way up to the majors and colonels to the top brass,” he said.
‘You are kicking out good men and women’
In October, in an effort to defend a U.S. military COVID-19 vaccine mandate that had resulted in the expulsion of 20,000 members, double-boosted Defense Department spokesman John Kirby spoiled his argument in a TV interview by acknowledging he was working from home because he had COVID-19.
Kirby was only the latest example of a top government official or major figure contracting COVID-19 after being “fully vaccinated,” illustrating the data indicating the shots actually make recipients more susceptible to the disease.
In the interview, “Fox and Friends” co-host Brian Kilmeade referenced the U.S. Army’s announcement that it had fallen short of its recruiting goal by 25%.
“You, as an admiral who knows what it takes and the sacrifice you make to join the military – to get kicked out like this, can you possibly talk some sense into this White House to reverse policy?” Kilmeade asked.
Kirby replied that the vaccines “are a valid military requirement.”
“You want your troops to be ready, and part of being ready is being healthy and not having the ability to infect your unit and make their unit readiness any worse than it is,” he said.
Kirby then noted he was working from home “because I’m wrapping up my own bout with COVID here over the past 10 days.”
“Exactly,” Kilmeade interjected.
The Fox News host pointed out it’s now widely acknowledged that the current vaccine does not address the current COVID-19 variants.
“Every one of your branches can’t recruit their threshold, yet you are kicking out good men and women. How do you explain that?” Kilmeade asked.
“Well, look, Brian, first of all the Navy did make their recruiting goals for enlisted personnel this year. Yes, it’s a tough recruiting environment. We recognize that, but it’s also you have a requirement to be healthy to be able to serve, and this is a valid military requirement,” Kirby said.
Noting he’s been infected, the Defense spokesman contended that “even if it doesn’t prevent you from getting COVID … it makes the symptoms a lot less severe.”
The data don’t support that contention, however, with the vaccinated and unvaccinated alike experiencing milder symptoms from the omicron variant and its subvariants. In fact, government data from around the world has indicted the vaccinated are more likely to be hospitalized or die from COVID-19.
“We would rather not lose anybody, of course, to the vaccine,” Kirby said. “We would rather not lose anybody from a retention perspective to have them leave the service earlier than they wanted or we wanted them to. But it’s a valid military requirement.”
“No it isn’t,” Kilmeade retorted. “This is an experimental vaccine that just came off the shelf. You know it’s not valid and it’s a risk to our national security.”
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