Republican Senator Tom Cotton (Ak.) sounded off on Democrats for attempting to use their draconian military vaccine mandate as a "bargaining chip" to pressure Congress to include an unrelated journalism bill in annual defense legislation.
In the end, neither the COVID vaccine mandate nor the bill Democrats wanted, the Journalism Competition and Preservation Act (JCPA), ended up in the text of the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA.)
The mandate is on the chopping block after the House passed the NDAA without it included Thursday. The mandate, imposed by the Biden administration last year, had sparked fierce opposition from the right and led to the discharge of thousands of honorable service members.
According to Cotton, Democrats offered to pull the vaccine mandate from the NDAA if Republicans would back the JCPA, an offer Cotton said shows "how unserious they are about our national security."
“[The JCPA] certainly shouldn’t have been used as the Democrats were trying to use it, as a negotiating chip for ending the COVID vaccine mandate on our troops," he said.
"The Democrats were trying to bargain away a core defense policy in return for one of their totally extraneous domestic priorities," he added.
Cotton said the vaccine mandate, unlike some other priorities Dems tried to attach to the NDAA, at least pertained directly to the national defense.
"That should be in the defense bill," he said, adding Democrats "caved" because they "know it's [the mandate] unpopular and they don't want to take the heat for it."
Cotton, a top Republican critic of the JCPA, also weighed in on that bill, saying it would allow left-wing media "cartels" to crush competition from alternative right-wing outlets. He said the bill should be a "non-starter" without guarantees that it won't result in political censorship.
"The idea that you can create an alliance of news businesses that have an exemption from the cartel that will then be able to exclude explicitly center-right organizations like Breitbart — and who knows who else — I find very troubling," he said.
The JCPA failed to make it into the NDAA, but the defense bill did include a 4.6 percent pay raise for service members.
It remains unclear what happens now to the roughly 8,000 troops who were gratuitously discharged for objecting to Biden's tyrannical order, or if they will even want to come back, but there are calls among Republicans for them to be reinstated with backpay.
“Some of the folks who have moved on are not going to want to come back,” Mike Rogers (Al.), who will become chair of the Armed Services committee in January, said.
The White House called the mandate's recission a "mistake" but said Biden would consider the defense bill "in its entirety" before deciding whether to sign it.