Sunday, June 4Welcome

Pandemic Politics Delays Trillions of Dollars in Defense Bill

A soldier obeys an order to get a jab.
Photo: John Cherry/Getty Images

One of the few bipartisan traditions still in Congress is the annual passage of the Defense Authorization Act, which sets the course of the Department of Defense and the National Security Strategy in general. Despite all sorts of partisan tensions and efforts to hold the bill hostage, this has happened for the 61st straight year. The House passed a bill in July that would authorize $839 billion in defense spending for the fiscal year beginning October 1, with caucuses from both parties winning overwhelming majority. It is especially notable that he added to President Biden’s spending demands and dismissed some of the government’s specific defense policy proposals.

Primarily for scheduling reasons, the Senate took time to negotiate that version of the bill and decided to finalize a deal with the House and administration. President for his signature. But at the last minute, a controversy that has little to do with defense policy threatens to throw sand into the wheels of the process. It’s a battle over the cancellation of his COVID vaccine mandate for members of the military, which was imposed in August 2021.

It is quite surprising that Republicans whose base is heavily anti-vaccine and who are trying to make any kind of COVID-related requirement a big civil liberties issue would want to abolish military mandates. No. (Twenty-one Republican governors also recently sent a letter to Biden calling for this policy change.) In fact, House Republican leader Kevin McCarthy has already said it out loud, according to Washington. Position:

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R, Calif.) on Sunday claimed to have struck a deal directly with President Biden. White House officials later disputed that characterization, but McCarthy described the compromise as his party’s “first victory” since Republicans won control of the House in the midterm elections.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith has not confirmed a deal was reached, but Politico reports that it sounds like handwriting on the wall.

“It’s not resolved, but it’s very fair to say it’s under discussion,” Smith told POLITICO alongside the Reagan Defense Forum. He noted that the mandate may no longer be logical. did.

“When we did that, I was a very strong supporter of mandatory vaccines and a very strong supporter of Covid restrictions put in place by the Department of Defense and others,” he added. “But at this point, does it make sense to have that policy from August 2021? That’s a discussion I’m open to and we’re having.”

The bigger issue is that Republicans are considering demands to reinstate and even compensate military personnel who refuse to comply with vaccine mandates and are discharged accordingly. Smith says it’s a beginner:

Negotiators are open to the possibility of rolling back the policy, but Smith said Republicans’ demands to reinstate or repay salaries to troops who refused to fire are a line. He called Push a “terrifying idea.”

“One of the things I was adamant about, like others, was that we would not reinstate or reimburse people who refused to comply with vaccination orders,” Smith said. “In the military, orders are not optional.”

It is becoming increasingly clear that the big question will be whether Republicans will choose to vote yes on a defense bill for the first time in 62 years. It will emphasize how important it is to your message.

The controversy also serves as an indicator of whether McCarthy has minimal interest in bipartisan governance after picking up the House Speaker’s gavel in January. ). Back in November, he was already making noise about forcing a renegotiation of the defense bill so that it wouldn’t pass until the next Congress convened. defense news report:

McCarthy told reporters on Tuesday after the House Republican leadership election, “I’ve seen what the Democrats have done with a lot of these things, especially with the NDAA, the awakening they’re trying to bring there. ‘ said. He named him president of the next parliament. “In fact, the NDAA believes he needs to hold out until the 1st this year. Let’s do it right.”

That McCarthy appears to be able to put his national security policy on hold and pursue a ridiculous MAGA crusade against the “Awakened Army” tells us a lot about the kinds of actions we can expect going forward. hostage, you know he might be in possession of the Speaker of the House official gavel, but Marjorie Taylor Green owns it.

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