HomePoliticsSenate Passes Annual Defense Spending Bill, Rescinds Military COVID Vaccine Requirement

Senate Passes Annual Defense Spending Bill, Rescinds Military COVID Vaccine Requirement

an invoice to rescind the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the US military and provide nearly $858 billion for national defense passed the Senate Thursday and now goes to President Joe Biden to become law.

The bill provides about $45 billion more for defense programs than Biden requested and about 10% more than last year’s bill, as lawmakers seek to account for inflation and boost competitiveness. nation’s military relationship with China and Russia. Includes a 4.6% pay increase for service members and the Department of Defense civilian workforce.

The Senate approved the defense policy bill with a vote of 83-11. The measure also received broad bipartisan support in the House In the past week.

The Senate still needs to vote on a continuing resolution to finance the government until December 23. If approved, the one-week stopgap measure will temporarily prevent a government shutdown by continuing to fund the government when the current measure expires on December 16.

To win GOP support for the 4,408-page advocacy bill, Democrats agreed to Republican demands to remove the requirement that service members get a COVID-19 vaccination. The bill directs Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to rescind his August 2021 Memo impose the mandate.

Before passing the measure, the Senate voted against a couple of bills to amend it, including a proposal by Democratic Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to speed up the permitting process for energy projects. The effort drew fierce opposition from some environmental groups who feared it would speed up fossil fuel projects such as gas pipelines and limit public participation in such projects.

Senators hold weekly political luncheons at the Capitol
Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer (D-NY) speaks to the media during the weekly Senate Democratic Leadership press conference at the US Capitol December 13, 2022 in Washington, DC .

/ Fake Images

Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, ensured last summer that Biden and Democratic leaders would commit to supporting the permit package in exchange for their support for a landmark bill to curb climate change.

Machin’s legislation sets deadlines for completing revisions to the National Environmental Policy Law for major energy and natural resource projects. It would require courts to consider power project permit disputes on an expedited basis. It also orders federal agencies to allow the completion of a natural gas pipeline in his home state and Virginia “without further administrative or judicial delay or impediment.”

“We are about to do something incredible, but let me tell you, most of it will be in vain. Because without allowing reform, the United States of America is more litigious than any nation in the world,” Manchin told his colleagues.

Mr. Biden voiced his support for Manchin’s legislation just hours before Thursday’s vote. He said too many projects face delays, describing the Manchin amendment as “a way to lower Americans’ energy bills, promote America’s energy security, and increase our ability to build power projects and connect them to the grid.” net”.

Not only some environmental groups criticized Manchin’s proposal, but also many Republicans. Minority Leader Mitch McConnell said he didn’t go far enough, calling it “reform in name only.”

The amendment fell short of the 60 votes needed for approval, 47-47.

An amendment by Republican Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Ted Cruz of Texas also lost. It would have allowed for the reinstatement of those military discharged for failing to obey an order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine and compensate them for any pay and benefits lost as a result of the separation.

“The people who serve our military are the best among us. More than 8,000 were fired because they refused to receive this experimental vaccine, so I urge all my colleagues to support Senator Cruz’s amendment and myself,” Johnson said.

But opponents worried about the precedent of rewarding military personnel who disobeyed an order. Rhode Island Sen. Jack Reed, the Democratic chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee, said the orders are not suggestions, they are orders.

“What message do we send if we pass this bill? It’s very dangerous,” Reed said. “What we tell soldiers is, ‘if you don’t agree, don’t follow the order, and then put pressure on Congress, and they’ll come and restore your rank, or restore your benefits, or restore everything. ‘”

The amendment failed, with 40 senators supporting it and 54 against.

The defense bill sets out the policy and provides a roadmap for future investment. Lawmakers will have to follow up with spending bills to make many provisions a reality. It’s one of the final bills Congress is expected to pass before adjourning, so lawmakers were eager to assign their top priorities to it.

The directive to rescind the vaccination mandate for service members turned out to be one of the most controversial provisions, but Democrats accepted it to allow the bill to move forward.

As of earlier this month, about 99% of active duty troops in the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps had been vaccinated, and 98% of the Army. Service members who are not vaccinated cannot deploy, particularly sailors or Marines on ships. There may be some exceptions to that, based on religious or other exemptions and the duties of the service member.

The vaccination numbers for the Guard and Reserve are lower, but in general they all exceed 90%.

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