U.S. Senator Ted Cruz (R-Texas) and U.S. Rep. Dan Bishop (R-N.C.) are introducing amendments to the FY24 National Defense Authorization Act.
The amendments build on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which (1) included language from legislation Cruz previously introduced to repeal the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate and (2) required a report on how DOD adjudicated service member’s requests for an exemption from the mandate on religious and other grounds.
Sen. Cruz said the following about his amendment, “The brave men and women who join our military to serve their country deserve respect and support, regardless of their COVID-19 vaccine status. We successfully worked to repeal the Department of Defense’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate from the last congress, but the work is not over. This amendment would reinstate servicemembers who were wrongfully discharged due to their COVID-19 vaccine status, and give justice to servicemembers punished in other ways due to COVID-19 vaccine status.”
About the amendment, Rep. Bishop said, “While the DOD’s authoritarian COVID vaccine mandate ended last year, we cannot leave behind the brave men and women who were wrongfully discharged, or otherwise punished, for refusing to take the vaccine. These servicemembers deserve to be made whole, and our amendment would both right this historic wrong and prevent it from ever happening again.”
The Senate version of the AMERICANS amendment would:
– Prohibit the Secretary of Defense from issuing any replacement COVID-19 vaccine mandate without Congressional approval; and
– Require the Department of Defense to:
o Reinstate any service member separated solely for COVID-19 vaccine status who wants to return to service, crediting the service member with the time of involuntary separation for retirement pay calculations;
o Restore the rank of any service member demoted solely for COVID-19 vaccine status, compensating the service member for any pay and benefits lost due to that demotion;
o Adjust to “honorable” any “general” discharge given to a service member solely due to COVID-19 vaccine status;
o Expunge from a service members’ record any adverse action based solely on COVID-19 vaccine status, regardless of whether the service member previously sought an accommodation;
o Make every effort to retain service members not vaccinated against COVID-19, providing them with professional development, promotion, and leadership opportunities equal to that of their peers; and
o Provide a COVID-19 vaccine exemption process for service members with natural immunity, a relevant underlying health condition, or a sincerely held religious belief inconsistent with being vaccinated.
Read the amendment text here.
Sen. Cruz has led the fight against government overreach due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
- In 2020, when 1.4 million Texans lost their jobs because of the COVID-19 pandemic, Sen. Cruz fought for true economic recovery, introducing comprehensive legislation to restart the economy, get Americans back to work, and put our kids back in school.
- He led the fight against unlawful COVID-19 mandates by introducing the first and most sweeping bill to prohibit federal vaccine mandates, tracking persons based on vaccination status and denying essential liberties based on vaccine status. In addition, his proposal would provide all employees with protections against employment-based vaccine mandates by extending current civil rights protections.
- During the pandemic, Sen Cruz led the fight for religious exemptions to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate.
- Sen. Cruz has led his colleagues on amicus briefs against vaccine mandates on Navy SEALs and federal employees.
- Sen. Cruz’s legislative language to repeal the Department of Defense’s vaccine mandate was included in the FY23 NDAA.
- Sen. Cruz previously sponsored Sen. Roger Marshall’s (R-Kansas) NDAA amendment to protect service members who refused to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Sen. Cruz previously offered the vaccine exemption and reporting requirements as amendments to the FY2022 NDAA.
- Sen. Cruz supported legislation to stop President Biden’s vaccine mandate on private employees under the Congressional Review Act, introduced the Parental Rights Protection Act to prohibit the federal government and any entity that receives federal funding from requiring COVID-19 vaccines for minors, and introduced legislation to end the Biden administration’s Centers for Disease Control and Prevention mask mandate for all Americans, regardless of vaccination status.
- Sen. Cruz has long been a champion of protecting students from ineffective and unfair COVID-19 vaccine mandates. He most recently sponsored a bill to combat the implementation of a racist coronavirus vaccination mandate in D.C. schools.
- Sen. Cruz worked to hold the Chinese Communist Party accountable for the COVID-19 pandemic.