The Senate passed H.R. 7776, or the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), with 83 votes in favor and 11 against. The NDAA outlines the Department of Defense's budget and expenditures for the 2023 fiscal year. Before it passed in the Senate, it passed the House of Representatives with 350 votes in favor and 80 against. With strong bipartisan support, all that's left for the bill to become law is Biden's signature. (Related: Vaccine mandate adverse effect: Army falls 25% short of 2022 recruitment goal.)
For the Democratic majority to win the support of Senate Republicans for the 4,408-page bill, the Democrats had to agree to GOP demands to scrap the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for servicemembers. The rescinding of the vaccine mandate will take effect in several weeks.
The nearly $858 billion funding bill provides about $45 billion more for defense programs than what Biden requested and is roughly 10 percent larger than last year's bill. It also provides more funding for the military development of Taiwan and Ukraine to boost their military competitiveness. It also includes a 4.6 percent pay increase for both servicemembers and the Defense Department's civilian workforce.
"Glad to fight for Montana's brave men and women in uniform and support our national security," wrote Sen. Steve Daines of Montana following the passage of the NDAA in the Senate.
"It's official – the FY2023 National Defense Authorization Act has passed the Senate with my measure to repeal Biden's military COVID vaccine mandate," wrote Sen. Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee.
While the repeal of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for servicemembers is definitely a victory, it should be noted that Sens. Ron Johnson of Wisconsin and Ted Cruz of Texas tried to take it further.
Johnson and Cruz submitted an amendment to the NDAA that would have allowed for the reinstatement of servicemembers discharged for failing to obey an order to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. The amendment would have also compensated them for any benefits and pay lost as a result of the separation.
The amendment fell short of the 60 votes needed for passage, with 40 senators supporting it and 54 opposing it.
Nevertheless, Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said he and other senators like him would continue fighting to give backpay to servicemembers who were "wrongfully discharged."
"The NDAA that passed the Senate today is a huge improvement over President Biden's woefully inadequate defense budget proposal and a great win for Florida, America's national security and our military community, but there is still work to do," he said in a statement following the vote in the Senate. "While I'm glad this NDAA rescinds the Pentagon's COVID-19 vaccine mandate, I will continue to fight so that every servicemember who was wrongfully discharged has the opportunity to be reinstated with backpay."
Go to Vaccines.news for the latest news regarding COVID-19 vaccine policy in the United States.
Watch this clip as Dr. Peter McCullough calls for backpay for servicemembers affected by the military vaccine mandate. The renowned cardiologist also calls for research into injuries suffered by servicemembers who were forced to take COVID-19 vaccines.