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Senate sends Biden military bill that would lift Covid vaccine mandate for troops and authorize more Ukraine funding

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Preventative Medicine Services NCOIC Sergeant First Class Demetrius Roberson administers a COVID-19 vaccine to a soldier on September 9, 2021 in Fort Knox, Kentucky.

Jon Cherry | Getty Images

The Senate passed a massive military policy bill Thursday that would direct the Defense Department to lift a Covid vaccination mandate for service members and authorize $858 billion in defense spending.

The National Defense Authorization Act, the annual bill that authorizes Pentagon spending and policies, cleared the Senate in an 83-11 vote. Five Republicans and six Democrats opposed the measure.

It passed the House in a 350-80 vote last week.

The legislation now heads to President Joe Biden’s desk for his signature.

The bipartisan bill would authorize funding for Taiwan and Ukraine and a 4.6% pay increase for troops. It also would do away with the military vaccination mandate, a Republican priority. Democratic leaders allowed the new Covid language to ensure timely passage of the bill.

A GOP-backed amendment that pushed for scrapping the vaccination mandate immediately instead of waiting several weeks failed to meet the 60-vote threshold needed for adoption in the Senate.

A separate amendment, offered by Sen. Joe Manchin, D-W.Va., sought to overhaul the process to authorize energy and infrastructure projects, known as permitting reform, in the authorization bill. It also fell short of the 60-vote threshold.

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