Democrats may back down on the military's coronavirus vaccine mandates they instituted that led to the removal of tens of thousands of soldiers from service, the Democratic head of the Armed Services Committee told Politico.
Rep. Adam Smith (D., Wash.), who called himself a "very strong supporter" of the controversial policy, said he is now open to the notion that the policy does not "make sense."
"At this point in time, does it make sense to have that policy from August 2021? That is a discussion that I am open to and that we’re having," the lawmaker said.
Republicans have slammed Democrats over the mandate and are set to make its repeal one of their first actions when they take over the House in January. House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R., Calif.) said Sunday that Republicans will withhold support for the $847 billion defense spending bill, which will likely come up for a vote this week, if it does not eliminate the mandate.
"We will secure lifting that vaccine mandate on our military," McCarthy said on Fox News. "What we’re finding out is they’re kicking out men and women who are serving."
Senate Republicans have joined McCarthy in threatening to block the defense bill unless the policy is removed, Politico reported:
GOP leaders are planning to focus on the policy when they take control of the House, if it isn’t rolled back before then.
Republican lawmakers and governors have pressed hard to undo the mandate in recent days. A group of 13 Republican senators, led by Rand Paul of Kentucky, have promised to try to block the bill unless they’re granted a vote on an amendment to bar kicking out military personnel solely for refusing a Covid-19 vaccine and reinstate separated troops with back pay.
And Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.) has pushed legislation to suspend the policy when the military isn’t meeting its target levels for personnel.
Smith called the idea of back pay "a horrible idea" because "orders are not optional" in the U.S. military.
Blackburn told Fox News that Republicans are "working to be certain" that the military is prevented from "firing our men and women in uniform" for refusing to be vaccinated.