More than 20 House Republicans pushed back Friday against what they called President Joe Biden’s unconstitutional COVID-19 vaccine mandates.
Led by Rep. Kevin Hern, R-Okla., a total of 22 GOP lawmakers assembled to tell reporters that they take issue with two vaccine mandates formally rolled out Thursday by the Biden administration.
Hern and the other House Republicans decried the mandates as a step toward a broader socialist agenda.
“Right now, we’ve got a president who is imposing vaccine mandates on private businesses across America, telling job creators and business owners that the government knows better than they do for who to hire and how to manage their companies,” Hern said.
“When the government is telling you how to run your business and your employees,” he said, “I’d call that control of your means of production: a clear and dangerous step into socialist governance.”
One vaccine mandate, to be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, requires employers with 100 or more employees to make sure their employees are fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, or to have unvaccinated workers provide weekly test results, at their own expense, showing they are negative for COVID-19.
The other, which affects health care workers in facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs, requires them to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, with no option for providing weekly test results.
In September, the president imposed vaccine mandates on federal government employees and contractors.
The GOP lawmakers were joined by Russell Vought, who was director of the Office of Management and Budget under President Donald Trump.
Vought, who now is president of a new conservative group called the Center for Renewing America, agreed that such mandates are unconstitutional and added that they already are prompting essential employees to leave en masse.
“Health care workers [are] walking off the job, firefighters are walking off the job, because they will not submit to something that they cannot in good conscience do,” Vought said.
Cuts to essential services due to vaccine mandates have materialized in places such as New York, where a citywide vaccination requirement for all public employees already has resulted in 26 firehouses closing, as well as a reduction in active ambulances of up to 20%.
Rep. Andy Barr, R-Ky., expressed concerns about the impact that the mandates would have on small businesses.
“Let’s have a little bit of humanitarian concern for the millions of people who will lose their jobs and the businesses that will literally lose their multigenerational livelihoods because of this overreach,” Barr said.
Another speaker, Rep. Lisa McClain, R- Mich., argued that the decision on whether to get vaccinated rests with an individual, not with the government.
“I think you all know better what should go into your body and have that conversation with your health care provider, as opposed to the president coming down and saying, ‘I’m mandating this,’” McClain said.
In addition to concerns about the violation of civil liberties, the House Republicans highlighted the toll that the vaccine mandates would take on people’s health and safety.
“As you push people out, you kick them out of their jobs, what happens?” asked Rep. Greg Murphy, R-N.C., who is a urologist. “They lose health insurance, they don’t go to the doctor, they get sicker, they delay care, and they possibly can’t get into the hospital and [then] die.”
“So what you’re going to have now, please mark my words, we are going to induce poverty because of this,” Murphy added.
Rep. Jodey Arrington, R-Texas, summarized the views of the gathered House members by comparing the current mandates to the tyranny suffered by the 13 colonies before and during the American Revolution.
“This situation reminds me of those hallowed words by Thomas Jefferson when we declared our independence,” Arrington said. “When there’s a train of abuses and usurpations, when there’s this despotism and tyranny of the central government … lording it over the people, it’s the duty and the right of the people to throw it off.”