On Thursday, the U.S. House approved a national defense bill that rescinds the COVID shot mandate for members of the military. The vote for the $858 billion National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was an overwhelming 350-to-80. It now goes to the Senate where it is expected to pass easily, then to the president to be signed into law.
As AP reports, to win bipartisan support for bill, Democrats agreed to Republican demands to scrap the requirement for service members to get a COVID-19 vaccination. The bill directs Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to rescind his August 2021 memorandum imposing the mandate. However, that may have come at a cost to Republicans.
Steve Crampton is senior counsel at the Thomas More Society, which has filed several lawsuits aimed at protecting service members from the mandate. He contends the GOP apparently made some extraordinary concessions to get Democrats to agree that the vaccine mandate should be rescinded.
"Including the funding of abortion for those in the military, even when they would have to be transported across state lines in order to obtain the abortion," he tells AFN. "So, our purportedly pro-life GOP has itself caved in a significant fashion in order to obtain the concession from the Democrats on the vaccine mandate."
Crampton argues that leaves a sour taste in voters' mouths about what some GOP lawmakers actually do when it comes to actions. "I think it remains for those of us who really believe in conservatism and Christian principles to remain ever vigilant with our congressional representatives," he cautions.
Yes, that's a negative … but there are positives, too
Maiya Clark, a senior research associate with The Heritage Foundation's Center for National Defense, also makes note of how the House-approved NDAA doesn't prohibit funding for abortion-related travel for service members. Other "losses" she points out include: ideological language on "diversity" and sexual orientation that remained in the measure (even though most "woke" initiatives were removed); and what Clark calls "watered-down bans" on the use of Chinese technology.
That's not to say, however, that conservatives came up empty in the final version headed to the Senate. For example, it does not expand the Selective Service (as the Senate wished) to require that women register for it – that's a "conservative win," Clark states. And she writes that the bill increases authorizations for a stronger national defense, eliminates several "left-wing requests," and improves military readiness.
Regarding the latter, she says the NDAA would prohibit the early retirement of combat platforms like the F-22 fighter; restore funding for the sea-launched nuclear cruise missile; and strengthen the munitions industrial base through additional funding.
In summary, says Clark, the final text of the 2023 NDAA "achieves its core task" of authorizing funds and policy to strengthen the military, resulting in a product that "conservatives can support."