Rep. Tim Burchett, R-Tenn., told Newsmax Tuesday that he can't understand why the Biden administration is not moving to drop the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the military, especially given the current difficulties with recruiting.
"I'm not sure if it's 10% for the 'big guy' or what it is, actually, at this point, because we've lost large segments of our military," the Tennessee Republican told Newsmax's "Wake Up America." "It's kind of not even being talked about. It's been hushed up, but the reality is we've lost folks.
"Recruiting is down 25%, I believe, right now, and our military preparedness needs to be at top notch, especially with all the things going on in the world right now, and it is not."
"It's due to the fact that we have demoralized our troops who said they have to get an unproven and untested vaccine," he continued. "It's just amazing to me that the Democrat Party can be so pigheaded and so anti-military that they would push something like this."
While Rep. Brian Mast, R-Fla., said last week that the annual defense spending bill would likely be signed into law without the controversial vaccine mandate, the Biden administration has not yet signaled that it is willing to drop the requirement.
On Monday, National Security Council spokesman John Kirby confirmed the White House's hesitancy to dispense with the mandate.
"[Defense] Secretary [Lloyd] Austin's been very clear that he opposes repeal of the vaccine mandate, and the president actually concurs with the secretary of defense," Kirby told reporters. "He continues to believe that all Americans, including those in the armed forces, should be vaccinated and boosted for COVID-19."
Arguing it has harmed recruitment efforts and cut forces, Republicans are fighting the mandate for service members and are leveraging that during congressional debate on the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023 (NDAA).
Over the weekend, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said the NDAA must include a reversal of the vaccine requirement or "the bill will not move," according to the Washington Examiner.
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