WASHINGTON — Congress could soon end the military’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate.
Democratic leaders in both the House and Senate are considering allowing a Republican bill to suspend the mandate to move forward, two Republican aides and a Democratic aide familiar with the matter told NBC News.
The bill, as currently drafted, would direct the defense secretary to end the Biden government directive for active duty and reserve component military personnel, two of the aides said.
Republicans are expected to introduce the bill as early as Monday and it could be included as part of the National Defense Authorization Act, which Congress must pass by the end of the year. The exact language of this bill is in flux and is still under negotiation, the sources said.
White House national security spokesman John Kirby said Monday the administration knows Congress is considering revoking the mandate, noting Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin opposes such a move. President Joe Biden “agrees” with Austin and “continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19,” Kirby said.
“This remains a very, very big health and preparedness issue for the force,” he added.
Austin instituted the vaccine mandate in August 2021, which applies to all active duty or Ready Reserve military personnel, including the National Guard.
Republicans were highly critical of the mandate, and the repeal legislation has long been in the works by Republicans in both the House and Senate Armed Services Committee.
The bill is separate from a separate press campaign by some Republican senators, who last week said they would delay approval of the NDAA unless the vaccine mandate was revoked.