U.S. Sen. Rick Scott wants Senate vote to end military COVID-19 vaccine mandate

By: - November 30, 2022 4:10 pm

Screenshot of Florida U.S. Senator Rick Scott at press conference in Washington on Nov. 30, 2022 (photo from C-SPAN)

Arguing that the requirement that all members of the U.S. Armed Forces must be vaccinated against COVID-19 is hurting military readiness, a group of at least 13 Republican U.S. senators – including Florida’s Marco Rubio and Rick Scott – said Wednesday they won’t support an annual military funding bill unless the Senate votes on an amendment to end the mandate.

In addition, the group wants to reinstate those members of the military related to the vaccination status issue and who have already been separated with back pay.

At a press conference in Washington, Scott said, “There’s significant health concerns that people have with this. I took shots when I was in the Navy. I don’t remember one shot I took that had the significant health concerns this has, or something that came up so quickly that there was mandates on.”

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) is one of 12 annual appropriations bills that must be settled for fiscal year 2023 in the coming weeks. Congress approved a short-term continuing resolution in September to fund the government through Dec. 16.

“While the Department of Defense certainly must make decisions that will bolster military readiness, the effects of this mandate are antithetical to readiness of our force, and the policy must be revoked,” the group wrote in a letter sent to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell and other members of the GOP’s Senate leadership team.

Defense officials told Congress earlier this spring that about 3,400 troops have been discharged from the military for refusing to be vaccinated against the virus since it was mandated last fall for all military members, Military Times reported back in May.

The GOP senators calling for the amendment say that the military vaccine mandate is costing taxpayers and is hurting military recruitment. In a press release from Scott’s office, data estimates that the U.S. Army spends $15,000 in recruiting costs to bring someone into the service and another $50,000-$75,000 to prepare them to join their first military unit. They also claim that recruitment is down 23% from annual costs.

“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 senators write in the letter. “Therefore, due to costs and recurring challenges, losing thousands of troops due to their vaccination status is a readiness issue that the Department should take extraordinarily seriously.”

“There’s health concerns. There’s religious concerns. We’ve got to acknowledge that our military men and women have rights, not just our commander in chief,” Scott said at the press conference. “I think that we have got to make sure that we listen to them and stop this. We’ve got to prohibit involuntary separation. We’ve got to reinstate these individuals with back pay.”

Kentucky’s Rand Paul is the lead senator on the effort. In January he introduced an amendment to overturn the COVID-19 requirements on consumers and students imposed by the District of Columbia. The amendment was attached to a continuing resolution to fund the government in February but failed.

In addition to Senators Scott and Rubio (who did not attend the press conference in Washington), other Republicans signing on to the letter are Ted Cruz from Texas, Ron Johnson from Wisconsin, Mike Lee from Utah, Lindsey Graham from South Carolina, Tommy Tuberville from Alabama, Steve Daines from Montana, Cindy Hyde-Smith from Mississippi, Mike Braun from Indiana, Josh Hawley from Missouri and Roger Marshall from Kansas.

Senator Paul said at the press conference that the number of Republicans who support their proposal has now risen to at least 20 members.

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Mitch Perry
Mitch Perry

Mitch Perry has covered politics and government in Florida for more than two decades. Most recently he is the former politics reporter for Bay News 9. He has also worked at Florida Politics, Creative Loafing and WMNF Radio in Tampa. He was also part of the original staff when the Florida Phoenix was created in 2018.