A number of Republican Senators are vowing to hold up President Joe Biden's Department of Defense nominees until the Pentagon explains why nearly all religious exemption requests -- submitted in response to the COVID-19 vaccine mandate -- were rejected.
I’ve demanded answers on why the Biden admin has granted almost none of the thousands of religious exemption requests for military vaccine mandates. With no adequate response, I announced a hold on DOD nominees. Partial concessions in the NDAA won’t be enough - we need the truth.
— Sen. James Lankford (@SenatorLankford) December 6, 2022
As of July, the U.S. Military punished 60,0000 soldiers for refusing to take the COVID-19 vaccine.
Some 40,000 National Guard and 22,000 Reserve soldiers who refused to be vaccinated against COVID-19 are no longer allowed to participate in their military duties, also effectively cutting them off from some of their military benefits, Army officials announced Friday.
In addition, Republican Senator Tommy Tuberville is also holding up nominees over the Pentagon using taxpayer funds for abortions.
"Senator Tuberville placed a hold on all DOD nominations for the remainder of the Congress until Secretary Austin responds to questions about the military’s memos on reproductive care and reschedules a brief on the issue that was canceled without explanation," Tuberville's office released Tuesday.
In October, Austin released a memo vowing to protect "reproductive care" and argued the Supreme Court decision returning abortion to the states negatively impacts force readiness.
"The recent Supreme Court ruling in Dobbs v. Jackson Women's Health Organization has impacted access to reproductive health care with readiness, recruiting, and retention implications for the Force. Since the Supreme Court's decision, we have heard concerns from many of our service members and their families about the complexity and the uncertainty that they now face in accessing reproductive health care, including abortion services," Austin wrote. "We also recognize that recent developments may create legal and financial risk for our health care providers as they carry out their lawful federal duties. I am committed to the Department taking all appropriate action, within its authority and consistent with applicable federal law, as soon as possible to ensure that our Service members and their families can access reproductive health care and our health care providers can operate effectively."