The Congress of the United States made a surprising and impactful decision to include in U.S. Defense Department authorization an end to the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for U.S. military personnel. The change sailed through Congress with passage of the National Defense Authorization Act (NADA).
Oklahoma Governor Kevin Stitt was among the clearest voices opposed to the president’s policy over the past two years. Stitt was among a group of 17 elected chief executives of American states to sign a joint letter last month assailing the Biden edict – and calling for its reversal by Congress.
In a November 30 Facebook the state’s chief executive said:
“I joined 20 other Republican governors urging lawmakers in Washington to remove and prohibit Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate on members of our Armed Forces. This mandate is costing soldiers their careers, hurts recruitment, and creates a national security risk.”
The text of the letter is posted below:
November 30, 2022
The Honorable Nancy Pelosi
Speaker of the House
U.S. House of Representatives
Washington D.C. 20515
The Honorable Chuck Schumer
Majority Leader, U.S. Senate
Washington, D.C. 20510
The Honorable Kevin McCarthy
Minority Leader U.S. House of Representatives
Washington, D.C. 20515
The Honorable Mitch McConnell
Washington, DC 20515
Dear Speaker Pelosi, Leader McCarthy, Leader Schumer, and Leader McConnell,
We ask you to take immediate action to remove and prohibit the Biden Administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate on members of the U.S. Armed Forces, issued by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on August 24, 2021 — either through the National Defense Authorization Act or a standalone bill. The Biden vaccine mandate on our military creates a national security risk that severely impacts our defense capabilities abroad and our state readiness here at home.
We face a two-front problem due to the Biden vaccine mandate: current servicemembers are leaving our ranks, and new recruits are not signing up to join. Implementation of the mandate has placed our nation’s military readiness at risk. As reported:
• On October 8, 2022, U.S. Army National Guard Chief of Staff Major General Rich Baldwin explained that the National Guard missed its recruiting target by 10% and announced that 7,500 members left service.
• On September 21, 2022, Deputy Chief of the Army National Guard Strength Maintenance Division Anson Smith revealed that the National Guard was preparing to discharge approximately 14,000 soldiers in the next two years for refusing the COVID-19 vaccine.
• On October 10, 2022, U.S. Army Secretary Christine Wormuth revealed that the Army failed its recruitment goal by 25% falling 15,000 recruits short of the target.
• As of November 15, 2022, the Armed Forces discharged 8,000 Active Duty members since the implementation of the Biden vaccine mandate.
As Governors, our ability to respond to natural disasters and conduct emergency operations is contingent upon the strength and size of our National Guard units. As Congressional leaders, it is your duty to provide for the national defense, and therefore, we call upon you to protect the men and women in uniform -- who protect us – from an unnecessary vaccine mandate.
As President Biden, himself, stated on September 18, 2022, “The pandemic is over.”
The letter to the Congressional leadership was signed by:
Governor Bill Lee, (State of Tennessee), Governor Kay Ivey (State of Alabama), Governor Doug Ducey (State of Arizona), Governor Asa Hutchinson (State of Arkansas), Governor Ron DeSantis (State of Florida), Governor Brad Little (State of Idaho), Governor Eric Holcomb (State of Indiana), Governor Kim Reynolds (State of Iowa), Governor Tate Reeves (State of Mississippi), Governor Mike Parson (State of Missouri), Governor Greg Gianforte (State of Montana), Governor Pete Ricketts (State of Nebraska), Governor Chris Sununu (State of New Hampshire), and Governor Doug Burgum (State of North Dakota).
Also signing the communication to leaders of the House and Senate were:
Governor Kevin Stitt (State of Oklahoma), Governor Henry McMaster (State of South Carolina), Governor Kristi Noem (State of South Dakota), Governor Greg Abbott (State of Texas), Governor Spencer Cox (State of Utah), Governor Glenn Youngkin (Commonwealth of Virginia) and Governor Mark Gordon (State of Wyoming).
The letter was copied to President Joseph R. Biden, Jr., The White House, 1600 Pennsylvania Ave N.W., Washington, DC 20500.
As news of a possible reversal of Biden's order percolated last week, Stitt on December 7 issued a new statement of his own, saying:
“I am pleased to see that leaders in Washington are moving to rescind the nonsensical and harmful COVID vaccine mandate for the U.S. military and National Guard members. The president himself has said that the COVID pandemic is over. It’s time for his policies to reflect his words.
“From the very beginning, I have been an outspoken in my belief that getting the vaccine is a personal health decision and mandating it for any group, whether for nurses or for Oklahoma National Guardsmen, is a violation of personal liberties and freedoms. Frankly, these mandates are anti-American. In the case of our Armed Forces, the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate has had negative effects on retaining and recruiting servicemembers, creating a national security issue.
“That’s why one year ago, Attorney General O’Connor and I sued the Biden administration over National Guard vaccine mandates. I was also proud to join Republican governor’s last month in a letter to congressional leadership calling for action to end these mandates for military members.
“I am counting on Congress to take action and finally end the COVID vaccine mandate for our Armed Forces. I will always stand up for the freedoms of those who fight for ours.”
Long before all of that, Stitt and state Attorney General John O’Connor sued the Biden Administration to stop the Biden mandate at the git-go.
In December 2021, Stitt said in a statement,
“The U.S. Constitution, the Oklahoma Constitution, and U.S. Code Title 32 are all clear: as governor, I am the Commander-in-Chief of the Oklahoma National Guard.
“Therefore, unless mobilized by the President of the United States under U.S. Code Title 10, I retain the authority for all training and governance of the Oklahoma National Guard – including determining if and how training guidelines issued by the president will be implemented.
“This week, Secretary of Defense Lloyd Austin declared his intention to proceed with unconstitutional punishment that individually targets Oklahoma National Guard soldiers and airmen, including withholding their pay.
“It is unconscionable that President Biden and his administration are choosing to play politics with military paychecks, especially amid the highest inflation rate in 30 years and so close to the holiday season.
“Threatening the pay of National Guard members is manifestly unlawful and unfair, as unvaccinated active-duty personnel do not have their pay withheld.
“Further, it is hypocritical that Secretary Austin addresses the importance of medical readiness in his letter but fails to mention that unlike active-duty personnel, National Guard members are not provided health care and must purchase it themselves. If medical readiness is truly that high of a priority to the Department of Defense, it should provide health care for all National Guard Soldiers and Airmen like it does for active duty service members.
“I will continue fighting to protect Oklahoma against this alarming pattern of unconstitutional federal overreach coming from the Biden administration.”
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