Biden Caves to Republican Demands, Begrudgingly Removes Military's COVID Vaccine Mandate


President Joe Biden signed a nearly $858 billion defense spending bill into law Friday despite his opposition to a Republican-backed provision that repeals the COVID-19 vaccination requirement for U.S. troops.

Biden had agreed with Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin’s determination that lifting the mandate was not in the best interests of troops or the military, according to White House officials. But ultimately, Biden accepted Republican demands to lift the vaccine requirement to win passage of the legislation.

In a statement, Biden said he had issues with several aspects of the bill.

“The Act provides vital benefits and enhances access to justice for military personnel and their families, and includes critical authorities to support our country’s national defense, foreign affairs, and homeland security,” the president said. “While I am pleased to support these critical objectives, I note that certain provisions of the Act raise concerns.”

The bill includes about $45 billion more for defense programs than Biden had requested and roughly 10% more than last year’s bill as lawmakers look to account for inflation and boost the nation’s military competitiveness with China and Russia.

Chip and Joanna Gaines Accused of Going 'Woke' After Controversial Social Media Post

The bill includes a 4.6% pay raise for service members and the Defense Department’s civilian workforce.

The Senate passed the defense policy bill by a vote of 83-11. The measure also received broad bipartisan support in the House.

White House National Security Council spokesman John Kirby last week reiterated Biden’s concerns about lifting the vaccine requirement but said the president would “judge this NDAA as a whole, just like he has in the past.”

“Every single year, the NDAA has things in it that we support, and it has things in it that we don’t support,” Kirby added.

Should the military have imposed a COVID vaccine mandate in the first place?

The defense bill sets policy and provides a road map for future investments. Lawmakers will have to follow up with spending bills to bring many provisions to reality.

As of early this month, about 99% of the active-duty troops in the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps had been vaccinated, and 98% of the Army. Service members who are not vaccinated are not allowed to deploy, particularly sailors or Marines on ships. There might be a few exceptions to that, based on religious or other exemptions and the duties of the service member.

The vaccination numbers for the Guard and Reserve are lower, but all generally are more than 90%.

Austin made COVID-19 vaccinations mandatory last year, saying the shots were critical to maintaining military readiness and the health of the force.

Military leaders have argued that troops for decades have been required to get as many as 17 vaccines, particularly those who are deploying overseas.

Ship Damaged In Red Sea Attack, US Acknowledges Airstrike Against Underwater Asset

The bill would require Austin to end the vaccine mandate “not later than 30 days” after the law is enacted.

The legislation, however, doesn’t end or address requirements for the other vaccines that troops must get. And it doesn’t specifically prohibit the military from preventing a non-vaccinated service member from participating in a specific mission or deployment.

It’s unclear if Austin would allow vaccination status to be a consideration in those decisions, or leave it to the services and commanders to decide.

The Western Journal has reviewed this Associated Press story and may have altered it prior to publication to ensure that it meets our editorial standards.

Truth and Accuracy

Submit a Correction →

We are committed to truth and accuracy in all of our journalism. Read our editorial standards.

The Associated Press is an independent, not-for-profit news cooperative headquartered in New York City. Their teams in over 100 countries tell the world’s stories, from breaking news to investigative reporting. They provide content and services to help engage audiences worldwide, working with companies of all types, from broadcasters to brands. Photo credit: @AP on Twitter
The Associated Press was the first private sector organization in the U.S. to operate on a national scale. Over the past 170 years, they have been first to inform the world of many of history's most important moments, from the assassination of Abraham Lincoln and the bombing of Pearl Harbor to the fall of the Shah of Iran and the death of Pope John Paul.

Today, they operate in 263 locations in more than 100 countries relaying breaking news, covering war and conflict and producing enterprise reports that tell the world's stories.
New York City