Senate Passes Defense Bill Canceling Vaccine Mandate

Legislation includes increase in military aid to Ukraine, Taiwan
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Dec 8, 2022 5:45 PM CST
Updated Dec 15, 2022 7:00 PM CST
House Approves $858B for Defense, Drops Vaccine Rule
From left, Republican Sens. Rick Scott, Ron Johnson, Rand Paul, and Ted Cruz make their case for dropping the Pentagon's coronavirus vaccine mandate on Wednesday at the Capitol.   (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite)
UPDATE Dec 15, 2022 7:00 PM CST

The Senate sent President Biden the defense bill on Thursday on an 83-11 vote, authorizing $858 billion in spending that might not all happen because of the ongoing tussle over funding the government. The budget includes more money for military aid to Ukraine and Taiwan, the Washington Post reports, as well as the provision dropping the mandatory coronavirus vaccinations for military personnel. GOP lawmakers had threatened to block the bill unless the mandate is ended, and they said they plan to investigate President Biden and his aides for imposing the rule in the first place, per the Post.

Dec 8, 2022 5:45 PM CST

The House voted Thursday to fund the Defense Department to the tune of $858 billion—$45 billion more than President Biden's request—while telling the Pentagon to drop one rule: the COVID-19 vaccination mandate for active-duty service members. The bill, passed on a 350-80 vote, requires the mandate be dropped within 30 days of the fiscal 2023 budget taking effect, CNBC reports. Republican House members had threatened to block the spending bill unless it ended the vaccine mandate, which went into effect last year. Biden and Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin favored keeping the mandate in place.

Republicans had argued the mandate hurt recruiting, per the AP. And more than 8,000 active-duty service members have been discharged for refusing to be vaccinated. The military has said that troops already had to have as many as 17 vaccines to keep the ranks healthy. A recruit's first day includes shots for measles, mumps, and rubella if needed, for example. Troops get flu shots every fall. But Democratic Rep. Adam Smith, who chairs the Armed Services Committee, said Thursday on the House floor that the requirement should be dropped. "It saved lives, and it made sure that our force was as ready as it could possibly be in the face of the pandemic," he said, adding that it only applied to the initial shot. “It's time to update the policy," Smith said. The budget now goes to the Senate. (Read more Defense Bill stories.)

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