The Department of Defense recently mandated that all members of the military get the COVID vaccine.
The Army said last week that members who refuse the shot could be subject to discharge.
Republicans say that service members who refuse the vaccine should "only receive an honorable discharge."
In the wake of the Department of Defense mandate that all US service members receive the COVID-19 vaccine, Republicans are seeking to ensure that those who refused to do so and are subsequently forced out "only receive an honorable discharge."
On Tuesday, three GOP senators introduced the "COVID-19 Vaccine Dishonorable Discharge Prevention Act," which builds on an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act that passed in committee earlier this month. An honorable discharge is the highest category of military separation and gives a veteran full-access to benefits to which their service entitles them.
In a press release, GOP Sens. Ted Cruz of Texas, Roger Marshall of Kansas, and James Lankford of Oklahoma blasted President Joe Biden's administration for not being sufficiently supportive of the troops.
"It's an insult to our servicemen and women who have served with honor to dishonorably discharge them for refusing the COVID vaccine," said Cruz. "It is the same way we dishonorably discharge those convicted of serious crimes such as treason, desertion, sexual assault, and murder."
"There is no question about it: American heroes should not be treated as felons because of their personal medical choices," said Marshall.
The text of the bill, released by Cruz's senate office, specifies that a "member of an Armed Force under the jurisdiction of the Secretary of a military department subject to discharge on the basis of the member choosing not to receive the COVID-19 vaccine may only receive an honorable discharge."
Last week, the Army said that members who refuse the vaccine will be counseled by their chain of command, but that continued noncompliance "could result in administrative or non-judicial punishment - to include relief of duties or discharge."
The Senate bill follows an NDAA amendment by Rep. Mark Green of Tennessee that was ultimately adopted after Democrats expressed some hesitation.
"It is just baffling that service members don't sign up for that. You put your life on the line to protect the country, but you won't take a shot to protect the country? It's something that as long as I live I will never understand," said House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith, per Military Times.
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