The White House on Wednesday called it a “mistake” to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for military service members through the annual defense policy bill, but officials stopped short of saying President Biden would veto the legislation.
“What we think happened here is Republicans in Congress have decided that they’d rather fight against the health and well-being of our troops than protecting them,” press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said. “And we believe that it is a mistake, what we saw happen on the NDAA as it relates to the vaccine mandate. Making sure our troops are prepared and ready for service is a priority for President Biden. The vaccination requirement for COVID does just that.”
Jean-Pierre’s comments echoed those of John Kirby, the former Pentagon press secretary and a current National Security Council spokesperson, who told reporters earlier Wednesday that the vaccine mandate ensures military preparedness.
In a compromise with Republicans, House Democrats are allowing language into the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that repeals the coronavirus vaccine mandate for U.S. service members a year after it was enacted.
The bill, which lays out how an $847 billion Defense Department top line will be allocated in fiscal 2023, is set to be voted on by the House Thursday.
The White House on Wednesday would not say if Biden would go as far as vetoing the final version of the bill if it rescinded the vaccine mandate.
“I don’t want to get ahead of the process. We know there’s the conference language, there’s still the legislative process that has to move ahead on this,” Jean-Pierre said. “But every year the NDAA has some provisions we support and some we do not, and what the president’s going to do is he’s going to judge this piece of legislation, this bill, in its entirety when that occurs.”