More than a dozen Republican senators are demanding that the party’s Senate leadership move for the upper chamber to consider an amendment that would end the military’s Covid shot mandate for U.S. service members.
In a letter sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of Senate GOP leadership on Wednesday, 13 Republican senators voiced their opposition to invoking cloture on the National Defense Authorization Act unless the Senate votes on an amendment that would prevent the military from discharging service members for choosing not to get the Covid shot, as well as reinstate those who had already been discharged with full back pay.
“The Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccine mandate has ruined the livelihoods of men and women who have honorably served our country,” the letter reads. “The United States simply cannot afford to discharge our brave men and women in uniform and lose the investments we have made into each and every one of them due to an inept bureaucratic policy. …We respectfully request that the Senate vote to remedy a policy that adversely affects our service members and our national security.”
Among the Republicans signed onto the letter are Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Rand Paul of Kentucky, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida, Mike Lee of Utah, Ted Cruz of Texas, Mike Braun of Indiana, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Tommy Tuberville of Alabama, Steve Daines of Montana, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, and Josh Hawley of Missouri.
Despite the CDC’s acknowledgment in May 2021 that the Covid jabs don’t prevent individuals from getting or spreading the respiratory virus, the Biden administration proceeded to mandate the shots for all U.S. service members in August of that same year. According to the Republican senators’ Wednesday letter, as of April 2022, approximately 3,400 troops have been involuntarily separated from service for refusing the jab.
Some service members, however, have since filed lawsuits against the Defense Department over the agency’s overwhelming denial of troops’ religious exemptions from the shot mandate. Earlier this year, several members of the U.S. Coast Guard filed suit against high-ranking military officials such as Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, claiming that the department’s denial of their religious exemptions is an infringement of their First Amendment rights.
“Chaplains attested to the sincerity of Plaintiffs’ religious objections to being vaccinated, and Defendants did not contest the sincerity of Plaintiffs’ religious objections to being vaccinated,” the suit reads.