A bipartisan majority in the U.S. Senate recently voted down a proposed amendment from Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) that would have provided methods of pursuing ostensibly corrective action for former military personnel who were dismissed from their positions in connection to non-compliance with a mandate to be vaccinated against COVID-19.
That mandate is no longer active, though Republicans have been relatively consistent in condemning some of the more restrictive measures imposed around the pandemic’s spread. Such was a key driver of the early national popularity of Florida GOP Governor Ron DeSantis, who subsequently attempted to parlay his rising profile into a campaign for the Republican nomination for president. In the Senate, where Cruz’s proposal was specifically connected to a bill providing funding for the military for the next fiscal year, the Republicans who joined those in opposition included familiar moderate names: Sens. Mitt Romney (Utah), Bill Cassidy (La.), and Susan Collins (Maine). In total, 53 Senators voted “no.”
Sen. Jack Reed (D-R.I.) raised concerns amid the brief debate on the Senate floor over Cruz’s amendment that establishing the precedents inherent to his plan could positively signal for potentially future breaks by military personnel with the orders of their superiors. “Now, the vaccination policies of the military are rather robust,” Reed argued. “I think there are more than a dozen required vaccinations, and someone who just cavalierly dismisses that requirement and then claims that they should not somehow be held accountable, I think is wrong. But this goes to the fabric of the military. You must obey lawful orders, and all of these were lawful orders.” The Rhode Islander also discussed the impact on readiness from the spread of COVID-19, since an outbreak can spark an entire ship going temporarily out of service.
Cruz contended in his own remarks that Defense Department leaders were already considering the ideas he had, making action by the Senate in order. “My amendment rights these wrongs,” the Texan told his listeners. “It will allow servicemembers dismissed over the vaccine mandate to seek reinstatement or a change in their discharge status. It restores lost GI and VA benefits. According to media reports, the DOD is already contemplating all of these actions, but I believe the Senate should lead to address these issues.”