Leader McCarthy gets a win on Vaccine Mandate for Military 

The Lame Duck session of the 117th Congress came into more focus late yesterday when an agreement was reached on the text of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).  The annual bill that authorizes national defense programs is a “must pass" bill that also requires bipartisan agreement.  Every year Congress finds a way to reach that agreement – but in the current political environment that deal has been more and more challenging.  So, the release of final text is a significant achievement.

The agreement also represents a big win for House Republican Leader Kevin McCarthy.  The NDAA rolls back the pentagon’s Covid vaccine mandate for U.S. troops.  Republicans have argued for a long time that the mandate should end because the vaccine does not prevent the spread of COVID and the overwhelming number of soldiers are young and healthy and at reduced risk for serious illness from Covid.  Republicans have also argued the mandate is hurting recruitment for the military. 

Leader McCarthy drew a red line on the vaccine mandate and made clear that if the NDAA did not repeal the mandate, House Republicans would oppose the bill.  And he won.  It is an important victory for Leader McCarthy as he works towards gaining the 218 votes he needs to become Speaker on January 3rd.  He cannot lose many votes from Republican members given that Republicans will hold 222 seats and he needs 218 votes to become Speaker.  One of the potential hold outs, Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) has railed against the mandate for the military for over a year.  Rep. Roy has very publicly criticized Republican leaders for not working hard enough to end the mandate.  Leader McCarthy just delivered for Rep. Roy.  Regardless of how anyone views the merits of the vaccine mandate, this is a big political victory for Leader McCarthy and an example of what he needs to do and how he will approach the Lame Duck process as we move towards the January 3rd Speaker vote.  It remains to be seen how Rep. Roy responds to the victory – he has other issues that he thinks Republicans should fight harder on – but he may a demand and Leader McCarthy delivered.

The NDAA was stripped of other extraneous issues like the cannabis banking bill and the “The Journalism Competition and Preservation Act.”  (JCPA).  These issues will now be debated as part of the end of the year government spending bill – that still has a long way to go. 


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