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Senate passes defense bill to withdraw mandate for COVID vaccine

WASHINGTON—A bill to cancel the mandate of COVID-19 vaccines for members of the U.S. military and provide about $858 billion for national defense passed the Senate on Thursday and is now being signed into law by President Joe Biden .

The bill would provide about $45 billion more national defense program than Biden requested, and more than last year’s bill as Congress explains inflation and seeks to make the country more militarily competitive with China and Russia. is also about 10% higher.

The Senate passed the defense policy bill by a vote of 83 to 11. The bill also gained broad bipartisan support in the House of Representatives last week.

To gain Republican support for the 4,408-page bill, Democrats agreed to Republican demands to repeal the requirement that military personnel be vaccinated against COVID-19. The bill directs Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin to withdraw a memorandum imposing a mandate that he submitted in August 2021.

Before approving the bill, the Senate rejected several efforts to amend it, including a proposal from Senator Joe Manchin (DW.Va.) to speed up the energy project licensing process. did. The initiative has drawn fierce opposition from some environmental advocates who fear it will accelerate fossil fuel projects such as gas pipelines and limit public opinion on such projects.

Manchin, who chairs the Senate Energy Committee, won promises last summer from Biden and Democratic leaders to support a permit package in exchange for backing groundbreaking legislation to curb climate change. .

Manchin’s law sets a deadline for completing the review of the National Environmental Policy Act for major energy and natural resource projects. Courts need to expedite consideration of litigation regarding energy project permits. It also directs federal agencies to allow the completion of natural gas pipelines in his home state and Virginia “without administrative or judicial delay or obstruction.”

“We are going to do incredible things, but I tell you, most of it will be in vain. from,” Manchin told a colleague.

Biden expressed his support for Manchin’s bill hours before Thursday’s vote. It’s a way to reduce energy bills, promote U.S. energy security, and increase our ability to build energy projects and connect them to the grid.”

Not only did some environmental advocates bashing Manchin’s proposal, but so did many Republicans. said it was not progressing.

The amendment did not reach the required 60 votes (47 to 47) to pass.

Senators Ron Johnson (Wisconsin Republican) and Ted Cruz (Texas Republican)’s amendments also lost. It could have reinstated military personnel who were laid off for failing to comply with orders to receive COVID-19 vaccines, and compensated for lost salaries and benefits as a result of segregation.

“The people who serve in our military are the best of us. More than 8,000 have been fired for refusing to receive this experimental vaccine, so I want all my colleagues Senator Cruz and my We are urging you to support the proposed amendments,” Johnson said.

But opponents worried about the precedent of rewarding servicemen for disobeying orders. said it was.

“If you pass this bill, what message will you send? It’s a very dangerous one,” Reid said. “What we tell our soldiers is, ‘If you don’t agree, don’t follow orders, lobby Congress, and they will come and restore your rank, restore your profits, or all. will restore the

The amendment failed with 40 senators in favor and 54 against.

The Defense Bill sets policy and provides a roadmap for future investments. Legislators will have to follow up on appropriations bills to implement a number of provisions. It was one of the last bills Congress was expected to approve before recess, and lawmakers were keen to make it a top priority.

A directive rescinding mandatory vaccinations for military personnel proved to be one of the most controversial provisions, but Democrats agreed to allow the bill to proceed.

As of the beginning of this month, approximately 99% of active duty units in the Navy, Air Force and Marine Corps and 98% in the Army have been vaccinated. Unvaccinated military personnel, especially sailors and marines, cannot be deployed. There may be some exceptions based on religious or other exemptions and military duty.

Guard and Reserve vaccination rates are lower, but generally all exceed 90%.

Copyright © 2022 The Washington Times, LLC. Senate passes defense bill to withdraw mandate for COVID vaccine

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