Kevin McCarthy says military vaccine mandate will end or defense budget won't move forward

"Otherwise, the bill will not move," McCarthy said. "I've been very clear with the president."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy on Sunday vowed to ensure the end of the US military's vaccine mandate, or else the annual national defense bill will "not move."

On Fox News' "Sunday Morning Futures," McCarthy told host Maria Bartiromo of the Republicans' plan to "secure" the end of the mandated Covid vaccinations that caused thousands of service members to be discharged.

"We're working through what is the [National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA)], the national defense bill, we will secure lifting that vaccine mandate on our military. Because what we're finding is, they're kicking out men and women that have been serving… That's the first victory of having a Republican majority, and we'd like to have more of those victories, and we should start moving those now," the Republican leader said.

"You're saying in the NDAA, which we'll drop next week, the vaccine mandate for the military will be lifted?," Bartiromo asked.

​​"Yes, it will. Otherwise, the bill will not move," McCarthy replied. "I've been very clear with the president. The president... worked with me on this. This is the first sign of having divided government, you got some compromise here. And we've got something that Republicans have been working very hard, and a number of Democrats, too, trying to find success. But one-party rule would never allow that to go forward. And now we're going to have success."

The comments come days after more than 20 Republican governors, led by Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee, on Wednesday sent a letter to congressional leadership demanding that Congress revoke the military vaccine mandate either in the upcoming must-pass defense spending bill or through standalone legislation.

"The Biden vaccine mandate on our military creates a national security risk that severely impacts our defense capabilities abroad and our state readiness at home," the governors wrote. 

According to the Military Times, 3,400 troops had been "involuntarily separated from the service as of April 27.

According to a Reuters report, the Biden administration is receptive to ending the mandate for military personnel.

"Leader McCarthy raised this with the president and the president told him he would consider it," said White House spokesperson Olivia Dalton. "The secretary of defense has recommended retaining the mandate, and the president supports his position. Discussions about the NDAA are ongoing."

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