Defense bill likely to include end of military Covid vaccine warrant, source says


A massive defense bill-setting policy will likely end the military Covid vaccine mandate, a source familiar with the negotiations told CNN, following intense GOP lobbying to kill the mandate and the acceptance by leading Democrats that it is time for change.

The annual defense authorization bill will likely be approved by Congress within the next two weeks. The text of the bill was due to be unveiled as early as Monday, but has yet to be released and the timeline could slip as lawmakers seek to finalize details of what it will include.

House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy said over the weekend that President Joe Biden approved of the decision to end the Covid-19 vaccine mandate, though White House officials say it’s a exaggeration.

The White House says it still supports the vaccine mandate, and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin reiterated the Pentagon’s support for the order.

“Secretary Austin supports maintaining the vaccine mandate. The health and readiness of our forces is critical to our combat capability and is a top priority. I will not comment on potential or pending legislation,” Pentagon Press Secretary Brig. General Patrick Ryder said in a statement.

However, the movement on Capitol Hill underscores the action that is at stake and led by lawmakers keenly aware of the need for GOP votes to pass the annual defense policy measure.

That put the chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, Rep. Adam Smith, a Democrat, in a starting point position to change direction on the policy, though the decision is unlikely to have taken off. magnitude without the discreet approval of the White House.

It remains to be seen what Congress does with service members who have been disciplined or discouraged from service as a result of the term.

House GOP No. 2 Steve Scalise told Fox News on Monday, “We want them back. There are many young people who go to service academies and who do not go either. There are the best and the brightest in high school. You also want to get them back. And so we spoke to the military to get a full assessment of all the people who were discharged.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer said Monday the chamber would consider the defense bill “as early as next week.”

Schumer noted the dwindling number of days left in the calendar year and said, “and we still have a lot to do,” pointing to the National Defense Authorization Act, confirming more judicial nominees from the President Joe Biden, as well as government funding. .

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