20 Republican senators are backing an amendment effort by Sen. Rand Paul (R-KY) to reverse the military-vaccine mandate before passing the annual military defense budget. The amendment would stop the military from kicking troops out over their COVID-19 vaccination status and reinstate those who have already been discharged, with backpay.
On Wednesday, Paul announced he and Sens. Rick Scott (R-FL), Lindsey Graham (R-SC), Mike Lee (R-UT), Ted Cruz (R-TX), Ron Johnson (R-WI), Mike Braun (R-IN), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Tommy Tuberville (R-AL), Marco Rubio (R-FL), Steve Daines (R-MT), Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-MS), and Josh Hawley (R-MO), sent a letter to Republican leaders calling for a vote on the amendment. The 13 Senators said they oppose invoking cloture to pass the defense budget, known as the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), without a vote on the amendment.
At a Wednesday afternoon press conference, Paul said 20 Republican senators had already signed on in support of his amendment, Breitbart Pentagon correspondent Kristina Wong reported. Paul would need at least another 21 Senators in order to prevent the NDAA from passing on a cloture vote.
Paul’s letter states about 3,400 service members have been discharged from the military over the vaccine mandate, as of April. The call for a reversal on the vaccine mandate comes as the military also saw historic struggles with recruiting in the 2022 fiscal year.
“Due to costs and recruiting challenges, losing thousands of troops due to their vaccination status is a readiness issue that the DOD should take seriously,” Paul’s letter reads.
According to Politico, members in the House and Senate have settled on about $847 billion for the defense budget after deciding to add $45 billion on top of the $802 billion requested by President Joe Biden’s administration. Politico reported the defense budget could even go as high as $858 billion this year. The last NDAA was $770 billion.