On Thursday, the United States Senate overwhelmingly rejected a measure that would have ordered the Department of Defense (DOD) to reinstate military personnel who had been discharged or otherwise separated from their branch due to refusing to take a COVID-19 vaccine.
As reported by the Washington Examiner, the measure was defeated with 54 votes against and just 40 votes in favor. The vote precedes the coming vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), an annual bill that funds the DOD. Republicans did manage to score a victory in NDAA negotiations by including a measure that officially ends the military’s COVID vaccine mandate, even despite opposition to the proposal by Joe Biden and Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin.
The reinstatement measure was championed by Senators Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and Ron Johnson (R-Wisc.), and would have seen the return of about 8,400 service members who were ultimately forced out across all six branches. But Democrats in opposition claimed that such service members were rightfully removed for disobeying an order.
“The service members who refuse to do that and who were discharged from service, that’s the way it has to work in the military. Orders are not optional in the United States military,” said Congressman Adam Smith (D-Wash.), the outgoing chairman of the House Armed Services Committee. “And if Congress expresses the opinion that they are, I cannot imagine anything that would more significantly undermine the good order and discipline within our military.”
According to Pentagon spokeswoman Sabrina Singh, 98 percent of all active-duty members had received one of the three major COVID vaccines, either the two-shot Pfizer and Moderna vaccines or the one-shot Johnson & Johnson vaccine.