Congress Clears Military Bill Repealing Vaccine Mandate for Troops

Passage of the $858 billion bill by the Senate sends the annual military policy measure to President Biden’s desk.

The bill directs Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III to rescind his 2021 order requiring Covid-19 vaccination.

Credit…Ted S. Warren/Associated Press

A service member receives a vaccine shot in his arm.
Catie Edmondson

By Catie EdmondsonDec. 15, 2022

WASHINGTON — The Senate on Thursday gave final approval to an $858 billion military policy bill that would rescind the Pentagon’s mandate that troops receive the coronavirus vaccine, defying President Biden’s objections and sending to his desk a bill that paved the way for a massive increase in spending on the military.

The vote was 83 to 11, an overwhelmingly bipartisan margin that reflected support in both parties for boosting the Pentagon’s budget by $45 billion over Mr. Biden’s request, as lawmakers in both parties argued that the protracted war in Ukraine and an emboldened China had changed the nation’s security posture.

With Republicans set to take control of the House in January, it essentially locked in the kind of large boost to the military budget that Mr. Biden and many Democrats had sought to avoid while they had unified control of government.

Negotiated by Democrats and Republicans in both chambers, the legislation would grant a 4.6 percent raise to military personnel, and provide $800 million in new security aid to Ukraine and billions to Taiwan. It includes changes sought by lawmakers to the military’s policy for handling sexual assault cases, a major victory that its proponents had labored for years to secure.

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