WASHINGTON — Several Republicans are warning they will drag out Senate consideration of a massive military policy bill unless they get a vote on ending a Covid vaccine term for the military.
At a press conference on Wednesday, the group of seven senators said they would refuse to support a speedy review of the National Defense Authorization Act unless Senate leaders allow a floor vote on their proposal.
Sen. Rand Paul of Kentucky said the group “will not vote to join the NDAA – the Defense Authorization Bill – unless we have a vote on ending this military vaccine mandate. “.
Paul, who has frequently clashed with Dr. Anthony Fauci over the Covid vaccine, typically votes against the NDAA every year. He’s also on track to be the top Republican on the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee, which oversees the government’s response to the pandemic.
The senators’ threat could delay final passage of the annual bill, which Congress has always passed, but that wouldn’t stop the Senate from possibly voting on the legislation.
Senator Lindsey Graham, RS.C., argued that military recruiting has suffered due to vaccine requirements, which Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin made mandatory for all service members in August 2021. The The requirement applies to all service members on active duty or in the ready reserve, including the National Guard.
“The problem here is that we have a dilemma that we haven’t had in decades – and that is finding enough people in service,” Graham said. “Our recruitment targets are very short, the conflict in the world is getting worse, not better. We need more people in the army, not less.
NBC News reported in June that every branch of the U.S. military was struggling to meet its recruiting goals for fiscal year 2022, which ended Sept. 30.
Senator Ted Cruz, who is also threatening to slow down consideration of the defense policy bill, has suggested the Biden administration is using the Covid vaccine policy to “purge” conservatives from the military.
“I think they’re using it as an excuse from the enlisted level, all the way up to majors and colonels all the way up,” the Texas Republican said.
Meanwhile, Senator Ron Johnson of Wisconsin questioned the effectiveness of the vaccine, despite its proven ability to provide strong protection against hospitalization and death.
“The bottom line here is that the vaccine doesn’t prevent infection. It doesn’t prevent transmission,” Johnson said. “So why would we make anyone take it? It’s crazy.
Other GOP senators calling for a vote on vaccines are Rick Scott of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah and Mike Braun of Indiana.
The Biden administration has had a mixed record on contested Covid vaccine mandates in court. In January, the Supreme Court blocked the administration’s rule requiring big companies to ensure workers are vaccinated or wear masks and get tested weekly. But he also said a separate mandate requiring vaccinations for around 20 million healthcare workers could be enforced.
Without the support of Republican leaders in the Senate, the proposal of the seven senators has little chance of obtaining a vote.
Asked about conversations with Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and other GOP leaders, Paul said “no one” in the leadership backed their plan.
“To my knowledge, no one in management has yet committed to supporting the effort. And I would ask, from my perspective, that they let us know if they are for or against it,” Paul said. .
McConnell’s office declined to comment.