February 8, 2023

Top Dem Says Defense Bill May Roll Back Covid Vaccination Policy

“I was a very strong supporter of the vaccine mandate when we did it, a very strong supporter of the Covid restrictions imposed by the DoD and others,” he added. “But at this point, does it make sense to have that policy from August 2021? It’s a discussion I’m open to and we’re having.

The defense bill is set to be released Monday and House leaders plan to vote on the $847 billion policy measure next week. Negotiators had hoped to file legislation on Friday, but congressional leaders are still sorting out several outstanding issues, apparently including vaccine policy.

Reversal of Policy – ​​It’s neither the House nor the House The Senate is included That would be a victory for Republicans, who argue that forcing troops to get a shot or leave the military — in their versions of the defense bill — would worsen the recruiting and retention crisis. Thousands of troops have been discharged for refusing vaccination.

GOP leaders plan to focus on the policy while they control the House, unless it is withdrawn before then.

Republican lawmakers and governors have pushed hard in recent days to undo the mandate. Led by a group of 13 Republican senators Rand Paul Kentucky, must He vowed to try to block the bill if they didn’t vote An amendment to prevent the discharge of soldiers solely for refusing a Covid-19 vaccination and to reinstate separated troops with pay.

And Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has introduced legislation to suspend the policy when the military doesn’t meet target levels for its personnel.

Negotiators are willing to entertain the possibility of undoing the policy, Smith said, with the GOP calling for reinstatement or back pay for troops who refused to fire. He called abundance “a terrible idea.”

“One thing I’ve been adamant about — and so have others — is that people who refuse to obey orders to get vaccinated are not rehired or reimbursed,” Smith said. “Orders are not optional in the military.”

“Now what should be the policy from this point on? It was a question we were ready to ask,” he said.

Smith endorsed the idea that the need to force the armed forces to get everyone a Covid vaccine has passed.

Most law enforcement and health officials in his home state of Washington are no longer required to vaccinate, he said, adding that “the epidemic is over.”

“We’ve been very aggressive in Washington state on a variety of Covid policies,” he said. “Police departments, fire departments, health departments — all kinds of agencies have lifted vaccine mandates — because of where we are now and the effect of the vaccine and the effect of people catching the disease.”

He also noted that current Pentagon policy does not require booster shots for the coronavirus.

“At this point, let’s say you get those two shots or one shot in March 2021,” Smith said. “They may serve, but one who receives nothing cannot?”