South Dakota Congressional delegation opposes COVID vaccine mandate for troops

As the annual National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) makes it’s way through Congress, South Dakota’s delegation is supporting a provision to repeal the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for members of the Armed Forces.
Sen. Mike Rounds (R, S.D.), Sen. John Thune (R, S.D.), Rep. Dusty Johnson (R, S.D.)
Sen. Mike Rounds (R, S.D.), Sen. John Thune (R, S.D.), Rep. Dusty Johnson (R, S.D.)(KSFY)
Published: Dec. 9, 2022 at 9:13 AM CST
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WASHINGTON, D.C. - South Dakota’s congressional delegation says its time to end the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for the military.

That’s according to statements from all three of South Dakota’s representatives in Washington this week.

“Republicans fought for our nation’s military, and ultimately, we secured the repeal of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate and a pay increase for servicemembers,” said Congressman Dusty Johnson in a press release. The House passed the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), which effectively funds the country’s military for a year, on Thursday.

Johnson signed onto a letter earlier this year calling for the mandate to be repealed, and is currently a co-sponsor of legislation which is intended to prohibit forced COVID-19 vaccination or adverse action for refusal for members of the Armed Forces.

Both of South Dakota’s Senators agree.

“As we have learned more about COVID-19 and how to ensure our military remains a ready and lethal force, repealing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for service members is the right move,” said Senator John Thune. “During a time when nearly every branch of our military is struggling to meet its recruitment goals, removing this requirement is one step we can take to ensure we retain and recruit talented men and women to defend our nation.”

“I support the provision in the NDAA to remove the COVID-19 vaccine mandate,” Senator Mike Rounds echoed in a statement to Dakota News Now/KOTA Territory.

RELATED: Noem asks Biden to lift vaccine mandate for Armed Forces

Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin has called for the mandate to stay in place.

“We lost a million people to this virus,” Austin told reporters traveling with him Saturday. “A million people died in the United States of America. We lost hundreds in DOD. So this mandate has kept people healthy.”

President Joe Biden and his White House have signaled they agree with Austin. However, broad bipartisan support for the NDAA when it passed the House Tuesday signals that the provision to repeal the mandate will likely make it through the Senate as well.

A vote in the Senate on the defense bill will likely happen sometime next week.