A Republican senator’s comments opposing COVID-19 vaccination requirements for the military have drawn criticism, including from her own GOP colleagues.
Senator Marsha Blackburn, the first term senator from Tennessee, appeared on Fox News on Friday where she discussed the upcoming vote on the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), the annual bill that sets policies and funding for the country’s various defense agencies. Blackburn, often noted to be one of the most conservative members of Congress, said that Republicans will work to ensure that the latest NDAA will not allow service members to be fired for not being vaccinated against COVID-19.
“What Republicans are doing is working to be certain that we get included in the [NDAA] the ability to keep [the Department of Defense] from firing our men and women in uniform because they are not taking a COVID shot,” Blackburn said.
Blackburn went on to insinuate that the vaccine is “not like” any other well-known vaccinations, like the one for Polio, but did not elaborate further. Members of the U.S. armed forces notably receive an extensive array of vaccinations before they are able to serve.
Blackburn later double-downed in a tweet on Sunday from her official Twitter account, writing that she and her GOP colleagues “are demanding the guarantee that servicemembers be protected from termination over Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate in this year’s final NDAA.”
Meanwhile, House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy and presumptive future House speaker, said to Fox News on Sunday that he had convinced President Joe Biden to remove the two-dose vaccination requirement from the NDAA. The Biden administration has not officially commented on the matter, however.
Above, Senator Marsha Blackburn, a Tennessee Republican, attends a political event in January 2016. Blackburn on Friday said the she and other Republicans are fighting a vaccine mandate for the U.S. armed forces in the upcoming National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA).
Scott Olson/Getty Images
Mark Hertling, former commanding general of the United States Army Europe, was among the prominent figures to slam Blackburn’s stance on the COVID-19 vaccine for military members, also lamenting the prevalence of similar stances among other GOP members.
“It’s amazing just how many Senators & Congressman – most who have never served & are showing they have no idea what goes on in the military – are echoing this incredibly dumb mantra,” Hertling tweeted Saturday.
It’s amazing just how many Senators & Congressman – most who have never served & are showing they have no idea what goes on in the military – are echoing this incredibly dumb mantra. https://t.co/GyyEYOBIUU
— MarkHertling (@MarkHertling) December 3, 2022
Representative Adam Kinzinger, an Illinois Republican and veteran of the U.S. Air Force, also criticized the senator’s comments, citing his own service. He also questioned why Blackburn never raised such issues during their time together in Congress. Prior to being elected to the Senate in 2018, Blackburn served as a representative from Tennessee for eight terms, starting in 2003.
“Literally they do choose that the second they join,” Kinzinger tweeted Sunday. “The list of shots you have to get is large, and I don’t remember you making a big deal about that when we served in congress together. You knew I was in the military too.”
Literally they do choose that the second they join. The list of shots you have to get is large, and i don’t remember you making a big deal about that when we served in congress together.
You knew I was in the military too. https://t.co/tAmrexlpir