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Biden's covid vaccine mandate for troops comes to naught

With a comfortable but simple majority ensured ahead in the Senate with last Tuesday's runoff result and probably an unwritten power sharing, also termed as compromise for convenience, in the House of Representatives the Democrats hopefully will sail through the remaining half term in the White House with ease.

The Dems who have just simple majority in the outgoing House therefore agreed to scrap Pentagon's vaccine mandate and approve a 4.6 per cent pay raise for the forces in backroom negotiations to get the defence Bill passed, as it needs a two-thirds majority. But that violated the will of the President, who has the powers to veto the legislation when it comes to him from the Senate for signature.

WASHINGTON, Dec 10: The House of Representatives passed the annual defence authorization Bill with a budget of $ 858 billion, $45 billion more than proposed by President Joe Biden, and sent to the Senate on Thursday in a compromise deal (the legislation requires two-thirds majority while Dems have only a narrow majority in the outgoing House) that has a rider interpolated rescinding the vaccine mandate that had made vaccination compulsory for the armed forces personnel, a rule which the President was very particular about. It is to be seen if he will veto the repeal of the mandate. Biden and Defence Secretary Lloyd Austin had both publicly said they oppose its repeal.

The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was passed in a bipartisan 350:80 vote.

The vaccine mandate has been in place since August 2021. Moves to rescind the mandate were earlier voted down in the House Armed Services Committee.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) threatened to hold up the legislation if it did not include a rollback of the mandate.

House Armed Services Committee Chairman Adam Smith (D-Wash.) remarked that “It saved lives" then and that “It’s time to update the policy" now. The “pandemic has winded down.”

GoP leaders argued that the policy is hurting military recruitment and retention. Over 8,000 active duty service members were discharged for not obeying the vaccine mandate. Rep. Mike Rogers, top Republican on the House Armed Services Committee, who will be the next chairman in the incoming House, said he will take them back.

And the compromise was reached.

Baptist pastor's complicated victories

Meanwhile, Democratic 'incumbent' Raphael Warnock, a Baptist pastor and first Black Senator from Georgia, defeated Republican Herschel Walker, a football player and Trump candidate, on Tuesday in the State's US Senate runoff, securing a comfortable majority of 51-49 for President Joe Biden's party in the incoming Senate, the Upper Chamber of the US Congress, for the rest of the term. In the 2020 general elections, it was a 50:50 split.

The runoff was one of the most expensive campaigns with $425 million spent, for what was at stake. In the November 8 midterm election, Warnock had received 36,000 more votes than Walker but did not have 50% of total votes to be declared winner as per the State's election law, necessitating a runoff which was held on December 6 and results declared on Tuesday.

(A runoff election is held when no candidate gets an absolute majority of the total votes, in any election. It is held four weeks after such an election. A special election is a byelection held to fill a seat fallen vacant but being held temporarily by a Governor's appointee.)

One-third of the 100 Senate seats each goes to the polls alongwith four-year presidentials and midterm elections. Election to full House is also held alongwith as the House has a two-year term. The Senate term is 6 years.

Warnock became Senator on January 20, 2021. He was elected in the January 5, 2021 special election runoff. The special election was necessitated by the resignation of Johnny Isakson on health grounds. He resigned on December 31, 2019 (died on December 19, 2021), ending his third Senate term halfway, which was till January 3, 2023.

When Isakson resigned, Governor Brian Kemp had appointed Kelly Lynn Loeffler to the seat and she was in office from January 6, 2020 to January 20, 2021 only, because to keep the seat and complete Isakson's term till January 3, 2023 she had to run a special election as per rule. The election was held on November 3, 2020 which she lost to Warnock but the latter did not get 50% vote and had to go for a runoff on January 5, 2021. Warnock won the runoff.

That is how an 'incumbent' Warnock came to contest the midterm election even as he was completing the remainder term. Now he will have another six years, his own full term.

Kyrsten Sinema leaves Democrats

Tuesday's result reduces the chances of moderate Democratic Sens. Joe Manchin III of West Virginia and Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona blocking any legislation moved by the party. For example, Manchin opposed Biden's Build Back Better Act and other initiatives last year. There are umpteen number of cases they dissented in the last two years. Now the latest news came on Thursday that Kyrsten Sinema has left the Democratic party and will stay as an Independent.

John Fetterman: Makes the difference

A more significant victory than of Warnock was of John Fetterman. The very tall Fetterman, a former mayor and lieutenant governor, defeated Trump-endorsed Dr Mehmet Oz against all the headwinds like inflation, economy and jobs, in the swing State of Pennsylvania, succeeding retiring Republican Sen. Pat Toomey. The Senate division has been 50:50 before the midterm with control of chamber with VP's tie-breaking vote. After the midterm when Fetterman flipped the Republican, it turned to be 50: 49 and finally with the last seat brought by incumbent Warnock, the tally is a comfortable 51:49. Now that Kyrsten Sinema has left, the tally will be 50: 49!

Before and After 2022

After the 2020 general elections, the Democrats had control over both the chambers. The effective strength of the two parties in the Senate following the November 3, 2020 general election and the runoffs in next January was 50–50 with VP's tie-breaker vote giving the Democrats the control of the chamber. In the House, Democrats got a majority by 222 to 213 (of total seats 435).

After the 2022 midterm, Democrats have a clear majority of 51 (now reduced to 50 to 49) in the Senate. For the House, elections were held for 434 seats only, and the result was reversed with Republicans getting a majority of 221 to 213.

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