FIRST ON FOX: Texas Republican Senator Ted Cruz is reintroducing his bill to reinstate military service members who were fired over President Biden’s vaccine mandates, vowing he "will never stop fighting" for them.
Cruz hopped on the phone with Fox News Digital on Monday to talk about his military service member restitution bill, the AMERICANS Act, that he is reintroducing to the Senate with 12 of his colleagues.
The Texas Republican said the GOP "won a tremendous victory in the NDAA by finally stopping Joe Biden's abusive COVID vaccine mandates that he had used to fire thousands of soldiers and sailors and airmen and Marines and Coast Guardsmen."
"That victory is worth celebrating," Cruz said. "That no more will servicemen and women be forced to choose between continuing to defend our nation and following their own conscience on questions of religious liberty and personal health care choices."
"Unfortunately, that legislation that was passed was prospective only," the Texas senator continued. "It stopped the mandate going forward, but it didn't provide relief to the thousands of servicemen and women who were wrongfully fired, who were targeted for demotion, for forced retirements, for termination."
"My legislation would provide relief to every one of those servicemen and women, would provide an avenue for those who want to return to service to be reinstated at their prior rank with full benefits. And for those who choose not to return to service, to ensure that their discharge is honorable, rather than merely a general discharge, and ensure that they receive the full benefits that they have earned defending our nation."
Cruz said he hopes his bill will make it through the Senate with a slim Democratic majority, expressing his disappointment in his Democratic colleagues for not supporting the bill.
The senator also noted that he is looking forward to working with Rep. Dan Bishop, R-N.C., on getting his companion bill through the GOP-controlled House.
"Unfortunately, some Senate Democrats have demonstrated over and over again that they are not willing to fight for the servicemen and women wrongfully targeted by the Biden administration for termination over the COVID vaccine," Cruz said. "That's been deeply disappointing. It may be different with a Republican majority in the House. Dan Bishop has introduced the companion bill in the House and I look forward to working with Dan to press to pass this into law."
Cruz said he does not "expect Democrats to support it" but getting the policy included in "must-pass legislation" and that it "may well be that Democrats will be forced to accept this much as they were forced to accept our prohibition of the Biden COVID vaccine mandates last month."
"My message to every soldier, sailor, airman, Marine, and Coast Guardsman wrongfully terminated under this abusive mandate is: I will not stop fighting for you," Cruz vowed. "We will keep fighting until you get the relief you deserve and until this injustice is corrected."
The Texas Republican also said that "unfortunately, an awful lot of congressional Democrats support these service men and women being fired."
"I've publicly expressed my concerns that the Biden administration was using these COVID vaccine mandates to attempt to purge the military of service men and women who had views they disagree with," Cruz said.
"They're doing the same thing as the Department of Justice, at the FBI, and the Border Patrol, and it is a profoundly partisan abuse of power," the senator continued. "What they're doing is wrong, and yet congressional Democrats have lacked the courage or integrity to stand up to this partisan abuse from the Biden administration."
Retired Air Force Lieutenant General Rod Bishop and chairman of the board of Stand Together Against Racism and Radicalism in the Services (STARRS) praised Cruz’s bill in a press release exclusively obtained by Fox News Digital.
"STARRS strongly supports Congress exercising its oversight responsibilities to ensure vaccine mandates are implemented IAW the laws of our land," Bishop said. "Additionally, we are avid advocates of Senator Cruz’s efforts to ensure patriotic military men and women who have suffered because of apparently illegal acts by our government are provided some crucial remedies through the AMERICANS Act!"
Elaine Donnelly, founder and president of the Center for Military Readiness, said "Congress was justified in revoking the Defense Department’s inflexible COVID-19 vaccine mandates last year, in view of recent studies and experiences with the COVID-19 vaccines."
"These included reduced vaccine effectiveness, apparent risks of adverse events for young and otherwise healthy males, and the relatively mild consequences of COVID in the military demographic," Donnelly continued. "Congress should take the next step by supporting provisions in the AMERICANS Act that would provide remedies for individuals who were harmed by unreasonable vaccination mandates, and prevent reinstatement of those policies."
Mike Berry, the First Liberty Institute’s director of military affairs and senior counsel, said "Congress’ repeal of the DOD Covid vaccine mandate was a needed first step, but the Pentagon continues to exploit loopholes to relentlessly punish current service members who have religious objections to the vaccine."
"The AMERICANS Act will ensure our brave service members enjoy the same Constitutionally assured religious freedom they’ve sworn to protect," Berry said. "It is an important next step that will help America maintain a strong, ready, and capable military."
Joining Cruz on the bill are 12 of his GOP colleagues: Senators Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, Kevin Cramer of North Dakota, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, Rick Scott of Florida, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Mike Braun of Indiana, Steve Daines of Montana, and Rand Paul of Kentucky.
Cruz’s bill would prohibit the secretary of defense from instituting another COVID-19 vaccine mandate without congressional approval and require the Department of Defense (DOD) to reinstate service members who were released from duty due to the mandate and want to return to service.
Additionally, the AMERICANS Act would require the DOD to credit the time fired from the military to be included in retirement pay calculations; restoring the rank, pay, and benefits for service members demoted due to the mandate; adjust any general discharges to honorable; and provide COVID-19 exemptions to service members with natural immunity, health conditions, and sincerely-held religious beliefs against vaccination.