Florida’s Senators Urge Mitch McConnell Not to Advance NDAA Over COVID Vaccination Mandate

This week, Florida’s two U.S. senators–Republicans Marco Rubio and Rick Scott–joined a letter to U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., and the GOP leadership in the U.S. Senate “expressing opposition to moving forward with the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) for Fiscal Year 2023, unless the Senate votes on an amendment to prohibit discharges from the Armed Forces solely because of COVID-19 vaccination status.”

Rubio and Scott joined the letter which was led by U.S. Sen. Rand Paul, R-Ky. Nine other Republican senators signed the letter. In the letter, the Republican senators said they wanted the amendment they are supporting to “reinstate service members already discharged, with back pay.”

Six senators including Paul and Scott held a media event on the letter on Wednesday.

“The Department of Defense COVID-19 vaccine mandate has ruined the livelihoods of men and women who have honorably served our country,” the senators wrote in the letter. While the Department of Defense certainly must make decisions that will bolster military readiness, the effects of the mandate are antithetical to readiness of our force, and the policy must be revoked.

“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… We respectfully request that the Senate vote on this important issue that adversely affects our service members and our national security,” they added.

“As of April 2022, approximately 3,400 troops have been discharged from the military for refusing to be vaccinated against COVID-19,” Scott’s office noted. “While training costs vary between each service, the Army, for example estimates it spends $15,000 in recruiting costs to bring someone into the service and another $50,000 to $75,000 to prepare them to join their first unit, depending on their job.

“The military also faces challenges with recruitment. Military recruitment is reportedly down 23 percent from annual targets. Therefore, due to costs and recruiting challenges, losing thousands of troops due to their vaccination status is a readiness issue that the Department should take extraordinarily seriously,” Scott’s office added.

With Democrats keeping control of the Senate after last month’s elections, the amendment that Paul, Rubio, Scott and the other GOP senators are backing is not expected to garner much momentum.

Kevin Derby
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