House Democrats recently blocked all Republican amendments to Congress’ annual defense policy bill that would have ended the military’s current COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
Last week, as Congress worked through the 2023 National Defense Authorization Act, a yearly law that sets Defense Department policy guidelines for the coming year, Republican lawmakers proposed 16 amendments that would have affected the military’s vaccine mandate in some way.
While some of the GOP amendments sought to abolish the vaccine mandate entirely, others aimed at simply exposing the mandate’s effect on the military or protecting benefits for service members who refuse to get the vaccine. Democrats on the House Rules Committee, however, blocked consideration of all but one of the amendments, ruling them “out of order.”
The decision of the Rules Committee, which is composed of nine Democrats and only four Republicans, prevented the GOP amendments from even receiving a vote on the House floor. In a tweet, Rep. Thomas Massie (R-KY) criticized the committee for their partisan maneuver.
“Last night the rules committee, controlled by Nancy Pelosi, refused to allow the House of Representatives to vote on my National Defense Authorization Act amendment which would have defunded the military COVID-19 vaccine mandate,” Massie said.
Instituted in August 2021 by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, the vaccine mandate requires that every member of the U.S. military receive at least two doses of a COVID-19 vaccine. An estimated 260,000 service members are not in compliance with the mandate and could face discharge from their position.
One of the amendments blocked by Democrats sought to prevent troops from receiving a less than honorable discharge from the military and losing access to their educational benefits. Rep. Chris Smith (R-NJ), sponsor of the blocked amendment, criticized the move as an insult to service members.
“This is no way to treat our courageous service members who put their lives on the line and sacrifice so much to preserve and defend our freedoms and security,” Smith said.
Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX), who proposed an amendment to end the mandate, launched a similar criticism. “It’s unconscionable what we’re doing to our service members,” Roy said.
“It’s undermining our Defense Department, the ability to recruit and maintain personnel, not to mention their morale at a time when the U.S. Army is at 40% of recruiting levels,” he added.