The Senate rejected an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have reinstated military personnel discharged for failing to comply with the COVID-19 vaccination requirement. This requirement was abolished as part of last year's NDAA, but Senator Ted Cruz (R-TX) introduced the amendment to expand on that repeal. Sadly, the final tally was 46 votes for and 53 votes against.
Senate rejects Cruz amendment to reinstate military members discharged over COVID-19 vaccine https://t.co/1EKj11KhuU
— Washington Examiner (@dcexaminer) July 27, 2023
Senator Cruz supported the amendment, stating that the valiant men and women who serve in the military deserve respect and assistance regardless of their vaccination status. He believed that servicemembers who were unjustly discharged for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine should be eligible for reinstatement. He argued that this amendment would provide equity to those who had been punished in various ways due to their vaccination status.
Senator Jack Reed (D-RI) countered that the amendment was in conflict with two essential military principles: readiness and obedience to lawful orders. He asserted that a COVID-19 infection diminished the combat readiness of military personnel, thereby diminishing their ability to fight. Reed also argued that denying the vaccine while the mandate was in effect constituted a violation of a lawful order, emphasizing that the military requires additional immunizations.
Before the mandate was repealed, approximately 8,400 service members were discharged over the vaccine requirement. In order to prevail in the Senate, the amendment needed 60 votes, but it fell short of this threshold. In contrast to last year, when some Democrats crossed party lines to support the repeal of the mandate, the vote this time largely followed party lines, although a few Republicans voted against the amendment.
It is regretful that this amendment was rejected, as it would have provided justice and assistance to the affected servicemembers. As conservatives, we believe that individuals should be able to make their own healthcare decisions, including whether or not to receive vaccinations. Punishing those who exercise their right to refuse the vaccine is unjust. In the future, hopefully, legislators will prioritize individual liberty over authoritarian mandates.
The Senate is currently in a race against time to advance the NDAA before the August recess. As a must-pass bill, it is crucial that both parties collaborate and identify common ground. However, it is worrisome to learn that the Republican-controlled House passed amendments on social issues that may encounter opposition in the Democratic Senate. It is imperative that we prioritize the defense and security of our nation over divisive social debates.