SALT LAKE CITY, (AP) — The governor of Texas is leading the charge. Conservative Republicans in many states are trying to block President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 mandates for private employers.
A growing debate over the perceived overreach of the federal government is fueling a segment in the Republican Party. This is even though large employers have decided to require their workers get the shot.
Since nearly half of the states’ GOP attorneys general have pledged to sue after the rule is revealed, the dustup could end in court.
Although the courts have always upheld vaccine mandates and the Constitution gives the federal government an upper hand over the states it is unclear what the final outcome will be.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive directive preventing private companies and any other entity from requiring vaccinations. This was the direct challenge to Biden’s announcement last month that private companies with over 100 employees would need to have their workers vaccinated and tested for coronavirus every week.
Abbott stated in his order that “no entity in Texas can force any individual to receive a COVID-19 vaccination.”
Officials from the White House dismissed Abbott’s order and said that the question of whether state law can supersede federal was settled during the Civil War 160 years ago. They claimed that the Biden administration will push through opposition and implement the president’s set of mandates. This could have an impact on up to 100,000,000 Americans.
Jen Psaki, White House Press Secretary, accused the opposition of putting safety ahead of politics, pointing out the nation’s COVID-19 death total of over 700,000.
“It’s quite clear that when you make a decision that is against all public data and information, it’s not based upon what’s in the best interests of the people that you’re governing. It may be in the best interest of your politics,” she stated.
Many large Texas companies have already implemented their vaccine mandates. Two Texas-based airlines Southwest and American indicated Tuesday that they would follow the Biden administration’s order. Federal action overrides any state law or mandate.
Arkansas lawmakers have approved a measure that exempts vaccine-mandates. Even though the GOP governor has not indicated whether he will sign, it has caused concern that businesses will have to choose between federal and state law.
Randy Zook (president of the Arkansas Chamber of Commerce) stated that Arkansas businesses are being tethered to their decision to protect their workers. Walmart and Tyson Foods being two of the state’s biggest companies, require employees to be vaccinated.
In states such as South Dakota, Kansas, and Wyoming, Republican governors have called for special legislative sessions to combat vaccine mandates. Kristi Noem has so far refused to consider any bill that would allow people to opt out.
Scott Odenbach, a Republican state representative, said that he hears from people nearly daily who fear losing their jobs and are living in fear. Odenbach has clashed on this issue with Noem. “They shouldn’t have to choose between feeding the family or their own medical freedom.
There are bills being introduced or drafted also in swing states such as Ohio and New Hampshire. The Republican sponsor was elected House Speaker after his predecessor died from COVID-19.
Speaker Shermpackard stated last month that “government mandates are not the way to success in vaccination rates” and added, “We have made it very clear,”
Utah lawmakers have yet to take action on the issue, but over 600 people packed a legislative hearing hall last week.
Rob Moore, CEO at Big-D Construction (Salt Lake City), said that he supports vaccines and has questions about the mandate rollout. His job sites are already experiencing a shortage of workers. Employee surveys show that close to 20% don’t want their workers to get inoculated. They would also need to be tested each week.
“That is weighing on our minds right now. I don’t know if federal government thought that through. He stated that it would cost a lot.
In other industries, vaccine requirements are not as strict. Utah’s NBA Jazz requires that all its employees be vaccinated. Fans are also required to present proof of vaccinations or negative COVID tests at the games. Frank Zang, Jazz spokesperson, said that so far only a few ticket cancellations have been required. Next week’s season opener is expected be sold out.
He said, “I believe there’s an understanding of what’s at stake in terms of having safe environments for people to enjoy concerts and sports again.”
Although the conservative legislative push might not succeed in blocking mandates, it could be a stumblingblock and another factor driving the GOP further right.
For example, Abbott’s order comes at a time when he is being criticized by right-leaning candidates for his COVID-19 policies. As he is running in an extremely competitive Republican primary for the U.S. Senate, Arizona’s attorney general has filed an earlier lawsuit.
Mike Meckler, a Texas conservative activist who founded the tea party 10 years ago, stated that the mandate issue is igniting younger people. He summarized the mood among activists by saying, “If you don’t support us, then you are with the fascists.”
Only 56% have been fully vaccinated in the United States, which is below what experts recommend to protect against the virus.
More than 200 million Americans have received COVID-19 vaccines. Serious side effects have been extremely rare. Experts agree that there is no risk associated with the vaccine, and the danger posed COVID-19 poses is significantly lower.
Recent polling has shown that about half of Americans support requiring large-company workers to be vaccinated and tested every week. According to The Associated Press survey and NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, 6 out 10 Republicans opposed the mandate for workers.
There were over 100 bills in the state legislatures that sought to reduce vaccine mandates during the past year before Biden’s announcement. Dorit Rubinstein-Reiss, a professor of the University of California’s Hastings College of the Law said. Although most failed, several states did not abandon their efforts and imposed some limits, including many that involved schools or state agencies.
Montana is the one state that passed a law banning private employers requiring vaccinations. Business owners can be punished with a $500 fine and/or imprisonment. The rule is currently facing two court challenges from the Montana Medical Association as well as a law firm. They claim that the rule impairs businesses’ ability to create a safe work environment.
The exact form of the rule will play a significant role in how these cases are weighed by judges. It will be approved by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. They have broad powers to regulate the workplace. It will be prepared as a temporary, emergency rule.
Reiss stated, “They will need to frame it so that it is workplace-related” and not simply an attempt to increase vaccination rates in the United States. “I believe the mandate’s main benefit will be that it covers companies who already wish to do this.”
This report was compiled by Associated Press writers across the country.