The White House said Tuesday it ‘strongly opposes’ a provision of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that prohibits the Pentagon from punishing or dishonorably discharging any service member who refuses a vaccine.
‘The Administration strongly opposes section 716, which would detract from readiness and limit a commander’s options for enforcing good order and discipline when a Service member fails to obey a lawful order to receive a vaccination,’ the White House Office of Management and Budget said in a statement on the yearly bill that funds the Pentagon.
‘To enable a uniformed force to fight with discipline, commanders must have the ability to give orders and take appropriate disciplinary measures.’
The Pentagon ordered all service members to get vaccinated last month and didn’t rule out court martialing those who don’t.
More than 800,000 service members out of around 1.4 million still needed to get their shots at the time of the mandate, according to Pentagon data.
But during the budget bill’s markup under the House Armed Services Committee, an amendment, now section 716, proposed by Rep. Mark Green, R-Tenn., made its way into the bill that prohibited ‘any discharge but honorable’ for vaccine refusal.
‘I am appalled that the Biden Administration is trying to remove my amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that prevents anything but an honorable discharge for service members who refuse to get the COVID-19 vaccine,’ Green said in a statement to DailyMail.com. ‘This was a bipartisan amendment — every Democrat on the House Armed Services Committee agreed to it.’
Section 716 notes ‘many Americans have reservations about taking a vaccine that has only been available for less than a year.’
‘No American who raises their hand to serve our Nation should be punished for making a highly personal medical decision,’ Green said earlier this month.
Republicans have balked at vaccine mandates across the board.
‘Our readiness, our ability to take on the enemy is being undermined by forcing young people, people who are perfectly healthy, perfectly able to fend off Covid, and are required to have the vaccine,’ Rep. Ken Buck, R-Colo., told DailyMail.com in an interview.
The White House also took issue with section 720, which exempts those who previously had a coronavirus infection from needing to take the shot. The bill states that service members can be exempted for ‘administrative, medical, or religious reasons, including on the basis of possessing an antibody test result demonstrating previous COVID–19 infection.’