Sen. Ted Cruz introduces bill to give honorable discharges to troops who do not want the COVID vaccine

U.S. Army Staff Sgt. Michael Pavasco, IT specialist with the 28th Expeditionary Combat Aviation Brigade, receives a COVID-19 vaccine from Sgt. Kenneth Hesler, a combat medic with the 156th Infantry Brigade Combat Team, at a medical clinic in the 28th ECAB's area of operations in the Middle East. Photo by Capt. Travis Mueller

Cayla Harris

San Antonio Express-News

May 11—U.S. Sen. Ted Cruz is championing new legislation to honorably discharge members of the military who decline to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

The bill, introduced on Tuesday, is the latest GOP effort to counteract the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for service members. The administration announced the mandate last August, and all branches are now disciplining or dismissing soldiers who are not inoculated.

Cruz’s bill, co-sponsored by 13 other Republican senators, would require the secretary of defense to try to retain unvaccinated soldiers. It would also force federal officials to report denied religious exemption requests and create a new exception for those who have already had COVID.

“It is absolutely unacceptable that the Biden administration is trying to coerce our men and women in uniform to violate their conscience and religious beliefs, let alone on an issue as polarizing as the COVID-19 vaccine,” Cruz said in a release. “The (legislation) will ensure that these and similar efforts to politicize our military on this issue are blocked.”

It’s unlikely that Cruz’s bill will gain traction in the Democrat-controlled Senate.

Another Texas congressman, U.S. Rep. Chip Roy, R- Austin, introduced a similar bill in February aiming to completely overturn the military vaccine mandate. His legislation, which has not advanced in the House of Representatives, would also reinstate members who have already been discharged.

“Army readiness depends on soldiers who are prepared to train, deploy, fight and win our nation’s wars,” Christine Wormuth, the secretary of the Army, said in a February statement. “Unvaccinated soldiers present risk to the force and jeopardize readiness.”

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