The Republican Party has launched an offensive in Congress to have military members who were expelled for refusing the COVID-19 vaccination reinstated. Senator Ted Cruz and Representative Dan Bishop are leading the effort to "correct this injustice." The Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shots Act of 2023 (or the AMERICANS Act, for short) would restore the rank held at the time of expulsion as well as provide compensation for lost pay and benefits. Conservative politicians also seek to upgrade the discharges of those who choose not to return to service to "honorable" status, thereby guaranteeing them the benefits they are entitled to for their time in the military.
Vaccine mandates were wrong the day they came out, they’re wrong today, and they will be wrong years from now! pic.twitter.com/6jO1CP2yNP
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 24, 2023
In the presentation of the bill, Cruz recalled Republicans' success in reversing vaccination requirements in December of last year. With the AMERICANS Act, the GOP intends to go a step further and "correct" the problems that were created after tough negotiations with the Democratic Party. The Republican Party, in exchange for passing the National Defense Authorization Act, was able to get rid of the vaccine mandate for military members. However, they did not succeed in getting compensation or reinstatement for those affected. This is something they intend to accomplish with this new bill:
Our military continues to feel the effects of the Biden administration’s reckless, misguided, and now-prohibited vaccine mandates. I’m glad that we were able to remove the COVID-19 vaccine mandate last Congress, but there is more work to do. The AMERICANS Act would correct the wrongs done to unvaccinated service members who were discharged for exercising their conscience.
Avoiding a new similar mandate
Glad to be working with @tedcruz to fight for those wrongfully terminated under the tyrannical military vaxx mandate.
While the end of the mandate is welcome, we must also right these wrongs and prevent a similar mandate from being issued again. https://t.co/RCZdejVBOb
— Rep. Dan Bishop (@RepDanBishop) January 23, 2023
Bishop stressed that Republicans' achievement with the NDAA may not be sufficient. He acknowledged that the NDAA ended the "authoritarian mandate" on mandatory vaccination but does not prevent the Department of Defense from re-enacting a similar rule in the future. To avoid this, the bill led by him in the House of Representatives together with Cruz's in the Senate seeks to shield the current situation by law.
While last year’s NDAA directed that SECDEF rescind the DOD's authoritarian COVID vaccine mandate, it didn’t prohibit the DOD from issuing a similar mandate in the future. The bill also didn’t provide any meaningful remedies for servicemembers who were kicked out due to the mandate. This is completely unacceptable. Sen. Cruz and my bill, the AMERICANS Act, will close these glaring loopholes and bring justice to military members who were purged by Secretary Austin's egregious vaccine mandate.
The arduous path of the AMERICANS Act
Both politicians are aware that they have a long road ahead of them, especially in the Senate, where the Democratic Party holds the majority. Democratic senators already struck down a proposal in December that was similar to the AMERICANS Act. President Biden is a leading advocate of mandatory vaccines and strongly opposed the Republican initiative included in the NDAA.
Cruz himself noted the difficulties he faces in an interview on Fox: "Unfortunately, some Senate Democrats have shown time and time again that they are unwilling to fight for the military men and women the Biden administration unfairly targeted over the COVID vaccine. That was deeply disappointing. It may be different with a Republican majority in the House. Dan Bishop has introduced the companion bill in the House and I look forward to working with Dan to push for this to become law."
I’m going to keep fighting for every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman who was fired because of Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate until justice is finally served. pic.twitter.com/uzDyANWVXc
— Ted Cruz (@tedcruz) January 24, 2023
Main points of the 'AMERICANS act'.
These are the main consequences of the approval of the standard:
- The Secretary of Defense would be prohibited from issuing any COVID-19 vaccine replacement mandate without congressional approval.
- The Department of Defense should:
- Reinstate any service member separated solely by COVID-19 vaccine status who wishes to return to service, crediting the service member for the time of involuntary separation for retirement pay calculations.
- Restore the rank of any service member demoted solely because of COVID-19 vaccine status, compensating the service member for any pay and benefits lost due to that demotion.
- Adjust to "honorable" any "general" discharge granted to a service member solely because of his or her COVID-19 vaccination status.
- Remove from a service member's record any adverse action based solely on COVID-19 vaccination status, regardless of whether the service member previously requested an accommodation.
- Make every effort to retain non-vaccinated COVID-19 service members by providing them with career development, promotion and leadership opportunities equal to those of their peers.
- Provide a COVID-19 vaccine exemption process for service members with natural immunity, a relevant underlying health condition, or a sincerely held religious belief incompatible with vaccination.