The White House opposes using the annual defense spending bill to repeal a vaccine mandate for military service members, national security spokesperson John Kirby told reporters on Monday.
President Biden is in agreement with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin that the mandate should remain in place, Kirby said. Republican lawmakers have threatened to delay passage of the annual defense authorization bill if the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, which was instituted last year, is not rescinded.
“He continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19,” Kirby told reporters, calling it a “health and readiness issue for the force.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who is vying for the Speaker’s gavel in the next Congress, said on Sunday that he believes the vaccine mandate for the military will be lifted through the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
“Otherwise, the bill will not move,” McCarthy said on Fox News’s “Sunday Morning Futures.”
“I’ve been very clear with the president … This is the first sign of having divided government, you got some compromise here,” McCarthy added. “And we’ve got something that Republicans have been working very hard, and a number of Democrats, too, trying to find success. But one-party rule would never allow that to go forward. And now we’re going to have success.”
McCarthy and other congressional leaders met with Biden last week at the White House.
Rep. Adam Smith (D-Wash.), chairman of the House Armed Services Committee, told Politico last week that a rollback of the vaccine mandate was possible in a compromise NDAA.
Republican officials have argued for months that a vaccine mandate for the military is an example of government overreach. Former President Trump and others have argued that members who were discharged for refusing the vaccine should be reinstated.
The NDAA, a measure seen as a must-pass for Congress every year, lays down a wide array of spending priorities and policy for the Defense Department. The legislation includes everything from the military’s annual pay raise to the funding of tanks, planes and ships to new programs and personnel policies, and has passed every year for six decades.
The House and Senate both passed versions of the legislation earlier this year, and lawmakers from both chambers have since been reconciling the two different documents, this week striking a deal to set the budget top line of the fiscal 2023 NDAA at $847 billion.
Source: The Hill