Nineteen US Republican senators have introduced a bill called the "Allowing Military Exemptions, Recognizing Individual Concerns About New Shot (AMERICANS) Act of 2023" that requires the US Department of Defense to reinstate military service members who were discharged over the military’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. The bill aims to correct the wrongs done to unvaccinated service members who were discharged for exercising their conscience and provides a COVID-19 vaccine exemption process for service members with natural immunity, a relevant underlying health condition, or a sincerely held religious belief inconsistent with being vaccinated. The bill also prohibits the Defense Secretary from issuing any replacement COVID-19 vaccine mandates without Congressional approval, requires General discharges to be changed to “honorable”, and provides compensation for lost pay and benefits. The bill was filed in response to the weakened provisions to protect service members in the National Defense Authorization Act of 2023, which resulted in the discharge of thousands of service members from August 2021 to December 2022 for noncompliance with the vaccine mandate.
Republican co-sponsors of Cruz’s bill include Sens. Mike Crapo and James Risch of Idaho, Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven of North Dakota, Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Roger Marshall of Kansas, Mike Lee of Utah, Rick Scott and Marco Rubio of Florida, Cindy Hyde-Smith of Mississippi, Mike Braun of Indiana, Steve Daines of Montana, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Rand Paul of Kentucky, James Lankford of Oklahoma, Ron Johnson of Wisconsin, Cynthia Lummis of Wyoming and Josh Hawley of Missouri.