Twenty-one GOP governors sent a letter to top congressional leaders Wednesday calling for them to pass legislation ending the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the military.
The same day, 13 Republican senators signed a letter to their party’s leadership seeking that very move.
In August 2021, Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin mandated military personnel get vaccinated or face separation from service.
Republican governors wrote in their letter addressed to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer and Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell that 8,000 service members have been separated under the policy so far.
“We ask you to take immediate action to remove and prohibit the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on members of the U.S. Armed Forces, issued by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on August 24, 2021 — either through the National Defense Authorization Act or a stand alone bill,” the governors said.
“The Biden vaccine mandate on our military creates a national security risk that severely impacts our defense capabilities abroad and our state readiness here at home,” they added.
“We face a two-front problem due to the Biden vaccine mandate: current servicemembers are leaving our ranks, and new recruits are not signing up to join,” they said.
The federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate on members of our Armed Forces is a threat to national security & readiness at home in TN.
With 20 GOP governors, I’m calling on Congressional leaders to take action to restore personal freedom for the brave men & women who serve our nation. pic.twitter.com/TT164k2pJa
— Gov. Bill Lee (@GovBillLee) November 30, 2022
The letter highlighted that the U.S. Army National Guard missed its recruiting goal for 2022 by 10 percent and that 7,500 members left the service. The active duty U.S. Army missed its goal by 25 percent, falling 15,000 recruits short.
Many of the people who join the Guard previously served in the active duty military.
The governors further noted the Guard is preparing to discharge about 14,000 members over the next two years for declining to take the vaccine.
“As Governors, our ability to respond to natural disasters and conduct emergency operations is contingent upon the strength and size of our National Guard units,” they wrote.
The governors concluded their letter saying, “As Congressional leaders, it is your duty to provide for the national defense, and therefore, we call upon you to protect the men and women in uniform — who protect us — from the unnecessary vaccine mandate.
“As President [Joe] Biden, himself, stated on September 18, 2022, ‘The pandemic is over.'”
In a separate letter to Senate Republican leadership, a group of 13 GOP senators led by Sens. Rand Paul of Kentucky and Lindsey Graham of South Carolina called for an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act for Fiscal Year 2023 (NDAA), which would both prohibit separations for service members who have not taken the vaccine and reinstate those members who have been separated and grant them back pay.
“The United States simply cannot afford to discharge our brave men and women in uniform and lose the investments we have made into each and every one of them due to an inept bureaucratic policy,” the lawmakers wrote.
Sens. Rand Paul and Lindsey Graham are calling for the Senate to vote on ending the military Covid-19 mandate. “We will not vote to get on the NDAA … unless we have a vote on ending this military vaccine mandate,” Paul says. pic.twitter.com/hntZkVYWOc
— Nancy Vu (@NancyVu99) November 30, 2022
The Hill reported, “Graham noted that he and Paul rarely agree on issues related to defense, joking that it might be a sign of ‘end times.’ Paul added that Graham has never voted against cloture on an NDAA package in the past.”
“At a time when we’re falling short of recruitment, we’re discharging able-bodied people — most of them have had COVID — because they refuse to take the vaccine for personal reasons. I think that’s silly. I think that’s insane,” Graham said in a Wednesday Fox News interview.
“It’s odd to me you’re willing to get shot for your country, but we’re going to kick you out of the military because you won’t take a [vaccine] shot,” he added.
U.S. Rep. Michael Waltz of Florida — who served in the Army Special Forces and is a colonel in the National Guard — pointed out in a House Armed Services subcommittee hearing in July that since the vaccine mandate went into effect, the understanding of the vaccine’s effectiveness has changed.
“I think it’s pretty clear now that it doesn’t stop the spread,” he said. “It’s more of a decision on what types of symptoms you want to incur or risk in your personal capacity, making it much more of a personal health decision.”