A group of 26 House Republican lawmakers recently sent a letter to Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, demanding to know when the military-wide COVID-19 vaccine mandate will end.
The letter to Austin was organized by Rep. Mike Rogers (R-AL), the ranking member of the House Armed Services committee. The Sept. 28 letter takes note of President Joe Biden’s comments about the COVID-19 pandemic during a Sept. 19 interview with CBS News’ ’60 Minutes’ program.
“On September 19, 2022, President Biden told Scott Pelley of CBS news that ‘the pandemic is over,’” the GOP letter states. “Pandemic restrictions have been lifted across the country and state and federal courts have enjoined enforcement of employment-based vaccine mandates. It is our understanding that members of the Armed Forces are now one of only a few groups in the Executive Branch still subject to termination for failure to take the vaccine.”
Rogers was joined on the letter by Reps. Joe Wilson (R-SC), Mike Turner (R-OH), Doug Lamborn (R-CO), Robert Wittman (R-VA), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Austin Scott (R-GA), Sam Graves (R-MO), Elise Stefanik (R-NY), Scott DesJarlais (R-TN), Trent Kelly (R-MS), Mike Gallagher (R-WI), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Don Bacon (R-NE), Jim Banks (R-IN, Jack Bergman (R-MI), Mike Waltz (R-FL), Mike Johnson (R-LA), Mark E. Green (R-TN), Stephanie I. Bice (R-OK), Scott Franklin (R-FL), Lisa C. McClain (R-MI), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Jerry Carl (R-AL), Blake Moore (R-UT) and PAt Fallon (R-TX).
Their letter further states there are 48 pending cases challenging the against Biden, Austin and other military leaders challenging the vaccine mandates.
“Virtually all of these [legal cases] are challenging the vaccine mandate imposed through your memoranda against servicemembers or contractors,” the letter reads. “A number of these have caused uncertainty regarding the long-term status of affected servicemembers.”
The letter further notes a June 2 memo by the Department of Defense’s Inspector General (DoD IG) that describes a pattern of requests for religious exemptions to the vaccine mandate being rejected without the individualized considerations for each exemption request that are required by law.
“Based on President Biden’s declaration that the “pandemic is over,” the ongoing litigation and court injunctions against the vaccine mandate, as well as the concerns raised by the DoD IG’s assessment regarding the legitimacy of the process for religious accommodations,” the lawmakers asked Austin to brief them on “the timeline to end the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, or an understanding of why you plan to keep the order in place.”
The lawmakers further asked Austin to assess how Biden’s comment that “the pandemic is over” impacts his determination to continue enforcing the military vaccine mandate.
The lawmakers also called on Austin to answer for how the vaccine mandate is impacting readiness, recruiting and retention in the military. They also asked Austin to provide a summary of the active lawsuits against the vaccine mandate and if any considerations are being made to reinstate servicemembers who have been discharged over vaccine refusals.
This week, White House National Security Council (NSC) spokesman and former Pentagon spokesman John Kirby defended the Biden administration’s implementation of the military vaccine mandate, despite nearly 20,000 healthy active duty U.S. troops being discharged over the mandate.
The impacts of Biden’s military vaccine mandate also recently caught attention after the president praised a U.S. Coast Guard rescue swimmer who is facing discharge because of Biden’s vaccine mandate. Biden praised Aviation Survival Technician Second Class Zach Loesch for “heroic work” rescuing people after Hurricane Ian, but Loesch recently told members of the media he’s facing discharge in the next 30 to 60 days.
Reporting from American Military News.