By overwhelmingly passing the National Defense Authorization Act, the Senate cleared the way for ending President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for troops — as Republican lawmakers have been advocating for months.
The next step will be to try to get troops who were discharged for refusing the jab reinstated.
Florida Sen. Rick Scott argued for this, saying in a statement on Thursday, “While I’m glad this NDAA [National Defense Authorization Act] rescinds the Pentagon’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, I will continue to fight so that every service member who was wrongfully discharged has the opportunity to be reinstated with back pay.”
Sen. Ron Johnson, a Wisconsin Republican, and Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas offered an amendment to the bill to do just that.
In addition to reinstating those 8,400 troops, their amendment called for their records to be expunged of “any reference to any adverse action based solely on COVID–19 status, including involuntary separation.”
Both Scott and GOP Sen. Marco Rubio of Florida co-sponsored the amendment.
But that was defeated.
While the overall bill passed 83-11, the vote to reject Johnson’s amendment was 54-40, according to The Washington Examiner. That meant some Republicans voted against reinstating troops.
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Four Republicans sided with the Democrats to prevent the troops from being reinstated. They were Sens. Mitt Romney of Utah, Susan Collins of Maine, Bill Cassidy of Louisiana, and Mike Rounds of South Dakota.
But Sen. Jack Reed, a Rhode Island Democrat and chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, denounced the amendment.
He argued that reinstating troops would send a “dangerous” message because the mandate was a lawful order from the Pentagon.