Blackburn, Colleagues Introduce Effort To Preserve Servicemember Readiness Amid Termination Threats Over COVID Vaccine

September 23, 2022

WASHINGTON, D.C. – U.S. Senator Marsha Blackburn (R-Tenn.), Tom Cotton (R-Ark.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), John Hoeven (R-N.D.), and Cindy Hyde-Smith (R-Miss.) introduced new legislation to preserve the readiness of the Armed Forces by limiting separations based on COVID–19 vaccination status until recruiting benchmarks are met and ensuring continued pay and benefits for servicemembers while religious and health accommodations are pending.

This legislation continues Senator Blackburn’s work to protect U.S. servicemembers from being terminated because of President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate. 


“Joe Biden announced the ‘pandemic is over,’ and therefore has no reason to continue to fire our servicemembers using his politically-motivated vaccine mandate. America’s national readiness should not be jeopardized because this White House is hellbent on preserving their forever pandemic. My legislation continues my work to strengthen our armed forces and prevent yet another unconstitutional power grab from the Biden administration,” said Senator Blackburn.


“President Biden is rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic. There’s no reason to quibble over the vaccination status of healthy men and women when the president can’t even fill the recruitment quotas we need in the first place. Our bill would end this absurd practice,” said Senator Cotton. 

“As we face recruitment challenges in our armed services, it just doesn’t make sense to kick healthy men and women out for religious or health objections to taking a COVID vaccine, especially now that even President Biden has acknowledged the pandemic is over,” said Senator Braun.

“We need to be working to strengthen our Armed Forces and support the brave men and women in uniform, especially with recruitment numbers down,” said Senator Hoeven. “Continuing to put punitive COVID-19 mandates in place is the wrong approach. It’s long past time that the Biden administration ends their COVID mandates and we’ll continue working to block federal overreach like this that hinders our active duty, Guard and Reserve members.”

“Defending our nation and its interests represents our primary constitutional duty.  President Biden’s unwillingness to give up his COVID vaccine mandates and penalties is hurting U.S. military retention and recruitment, which affects national security,” Senator Hyde-Smith said. “Senator Blackburn’s commonsense legislation to correct this situation deserves consideration, passage, and enactment.”


This legislation prohibits involuntary separation of a servicemember for refusal of the COVID-19 vaccine until each Service achieves its authorized end strength. As the military faces recruiting and retention deficits, it is not in the interest of national security to separate otherwise ready servicemembers solely for vaccine refusal.

It also requires the National Guard and Reserve to maintain servicemember access to pay and benefits while a request for a religious or health accommodation is pending. This would ensure continuation of Guard and Reserve policy in line with active duty and prohibit what is essentially adverse action prior to a determination.

Read the text of the bill here.