Headline RoundupDecember 7th, 2022

Congress to End Military COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate in New Defense Spending Bill

AllSides Summary

Congress will likely end the U.S. military’s coronavirus vaccine requirement, according to a draft of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023 released by the House and Senate Tuesday evening. 

For Context: The move is a concession by Democrats to Republicans like House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.), who had raised the issue in a meeting with President Joe Biden. McCarthy later called the move a “victory for our military and for common sense.” However, the White House refused to say on Wednesday whether Biden would sign the NDAA, calling the vaccine requirement’s removal a “mistake.” Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin also opposes revoking the requirement, which he implemented in August 2021.

Impact on the Military: While over 97% of active Army personnel are vaccinated, the Army has discharged a total of 1,841 active-duty soldiers for refusing the vaccine; top Republicans have called for their reinstatement. On Saturday, a top Marine Corps general defended the vaccine requirement but said it had harmed recruiting efforts. Furthermore, 21 Republican governors sent a letter to Congress saying the mandate had harmed National Guard recruitment. However, Defense Secretary Austin said Tuesday that the military had no data suggesting requiring COVID-19 vaccines hurt recruiting. 

How the Media Covered It: Coverage was common across the spectrum and included several angles, including the bill itself, praise from Republicans, and criticism from the White House. Some coverage from the right took a more celebratory tone; a Fox News (Right bias) headline said, “Republicans cheer military vaccine mandate rollback.”

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