Biden administration mulls ending U.S. military COVID-19 vaccine mandate
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[December 05, 2022]
By David Morgan and Jeff Mason
WASHINGTON (Reuters) - President Joe Biden's administration is mulling a
proposal from Republican leader Kevin McCarthy to repeal the U.S.
military's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, the White House said on Saturday.
McCarthy, who is vying to become speaker of the U.S. House of
Representatives, earlier told Fox News he had won bipartisan agreement
to lift the mandate at a White House meeting with Biden, Senate Majority
Leader Chuck Schumer, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican
leader Mitch McConnell.
McCarthy said it would be repealed as part of the must-pass $817 billion
National Defense Authorization Act, or NDAA, an annual bill setting
policy for the Pentagon that is expected to pass the Senate and House of
Representatives this month.
But the White House said Biden had agreed only to consider the idea.
"Leader McCarthy raised this with the president and the president told
him he would consider it," said White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton.
"The secretary of defense has recommended retaining the mandate, and the
president supports his position. Discussions about the NDAA are
The mandate, which was imposed in August 2021, requires all U.S. service
members to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
"You know what I was able to achieve in that meeting? To be able (to) –
we're going to see in the NDAA – lift the vaccination mandate on our
military men and women," McCarthy, the top House Republican, said in the
interview, which aired late on Friday.
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A Soldier at the U.S. Army Air Assault
School conducts training while adhering to coronavirus disease
(COVID-19) recommendations, at Fort Campbell, Kentucky, U.S.
December 3, 2020. REUTERS/Bryan Woolston
"I know I'm going to get that," McCarthy said. "We're working it out
right now. I believe we're ... going to get that."
There was no immediate comment from the other three congressional
leaders at the meeting.
The Pentagon's vaccine mandate has been the object of intense
opposition from Republican conservatives, including several House
lawmakers who are threatening to block McCarthy from becoming
speaker when Republicans take control of the chamber on Jan. 3.
According to Defense Department data, 3,717 Marines, 1,816 soldiers
and 2,064 sailors have been discharged for refusing to get
vaccinated. But federal courts this year have blocked military
services from punishing personnel who have refused the vaccines on
McCarthy presented the vaccine mandate deal as a sign of how he
would lead the House as speaker. He also rebutted conservative
criticism over his attendance at a White House state dinner for
French President Emmanuel Macron.
"That's the things that we're going to have with the new Republican
majority," McCarthy told Fox News.
"If somebody wants to argue about whether I'll represent this
country right and respect the very first ally that helped us create
this nation, I don't think they have their hearts in the right
(Editing by Deepa Babington)
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