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Biden signs defense bill repealing military vaccine mandate

Although the Commander-in-Chief approved the legislation, the administration voiced grievances with Congress over various provisions.

Chief among those policy differences is a provision requiring the Pentagon’s vaccine mandate, issued in August 2021 by Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin, to be repealed within 30 days of taking effect.

The repeal is a victory for Republicans who have lobbied to scrap the rule that forced thousands of people who refused the shot from the services, arguing it hurts a strained recruiting situation. And Democrats on Capitol Hill finally agreed to scrap the mandate.

Administration officials chimed with Republicans, arguing the move jeopardized the health and readiness of the armed forces, but ultimately pointed to high vaccination rates in the military as an achievement.

But the defense bill doesn’t stop the Pentagon from issuing a new vaccine requirement in the coming months, meaning Austin could implement a new policy once the old directive is repealed. . That would likely spark a battle with the GOP-led House next year, when Republicans are expected to continue to pressure the Pentagon to reinstate the troops who were expelled and return their salaries.

The bill also takes a red pen on Biden’s Pentagon budget, after both sides flatly rejected the plan as too low to counter Russia and China as well as mitigate the effects of inflation.

In the end, lawmakers authorized more money to buy more planes and ships as well as to cover the effects of inflation on the Pentagon, defense industry and personnel.

The final deal authorizes $847 billion in funding for national defense, a $45 billion increase from Biden’s request. The Pentagon receives $817 billion and $30 billion goes to nuclear weapons programs under the Department of Energy. The grand total comes to $858 billion when accounting for accounts that normally fall outside the purview of armed services committees.

Congress still needs to enact a funding bill for the budget increase to become a reality, which is expected soon. The Senate on Thursday approved an omnibus government funding package that matches government funding levels set out in the defense bill. The House is expected to vote on the measure on Friday, and Biden is expected to sign the spending agreement in the coming days.

politico Gt

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