Republican governors impressed by Biden’s vaccine mandate

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Republican governors impressed by Biden’s vaccine mandate

President Biden’s orders prompting millions of workers to vaccinate were intended to turn the tide on a pandemic that has killed 650,000 Americans. But on Friday, the mandate quickly deepened the country’s political divide over coronavirus vaccination and government power.

Some employers and business groups welcomed the broad new requirements, which affect most federal employees and contractors, health care workers and companies with 100 or more employees. Trade unions representing lakhs of workers expressed a mix of support and reservation. And Republican leaders issued outright condemnation, calling the mandate a major government attack on individual liberties and private business.

News of the mandate prompted Governor Henry McMaster of South Carolina to say he would fight Biden and his party to the “gates of hell”.

Several Republican governors have vowed to go to court to challenge the constitutionality of the rules affecting two-thirds of American workers, setting the stage for one of the nation’s most consequential legal battles over public health since Republicans have made affordable Filed a lawsuit to overturn the Care Act.

“@JoeBiden see you in court,” Gov. Christi Noem of South Dakota wrote on twitter.

Mr Biden offered a scathing response to the legal threats as he visited Washington Middle School to urge parents to get shots for their vaccine-eligible children. “It’s on,” he said.

The mandate represented an aggressive change of posture for the administration, which had opposed broader vaccine requirements as the more infectious version of the virus fueled resurgent Covid-19 infections and deaths this summer, though almost 65 percent of American adults were fully vaccinated.

“I am so disappointed, especially, that some Republican governors are so careless about the health of these kids, so careless about the health of their communities,” Biden said while remarking at the Washington school.

Legal experts say the federal government has broad authority to address the public health crisis caused by the pandemic, and Mr Biden predicted on Friday that his health order would survive legal challenges.

But across the country, a more urgent concern for many businesses was how to implement and enforce the new rules, which the president estimated would cost 100 million Americans.

Businesses wondered: How would they verify the vaccination status of a worker or track the weekly tests required for workers who were not vaccinated? How will the rules be enforced? What would happen to workers or companies that refused to comply?

Still, the new mandates could put some pressure on businesses and address the current mess of vaccine requirements. Several companies, including United Airlines and Tyson Foods, were already moving toward requiring vaccines. Business Roundtable, a powerful lobbying group, issued a statement endorsing the administration’s new orders.

“The Business Roundtable welcomes the Biden administration’s continued vigil in the fight against COVID,” said the group, whose members include leaders from General Electric, Amazon, Goldman Sachs and dozens of other large companies. “America’s business leaders know how important vaccination and testing are in defeating the pandemic.”

For months, Molly Moon Netzel, founder and chief executive of Molly Moon’s Homemade Ice Cream, which has multiple locations in Washington state, has debated whether 180 of its employees need to be vaccinated. On Friday, she felt the new mandate gave her some cover to do so.

“I was honestly just relieved,” she said. “We have six to 10 who have opted not to vaccinate yet. I know it bothers people on their teams. “

Hospital workers in Houston and Detroit, who had previously opposed vaccine requirements, sued their employers over the rules, and face-covering rules put employees on the front lines of sometimes violent confrontations that they With customers who refuse to wear masks.

“Some companies will be easily relieved that the president has taken this step,” said Bob Harvey, president of the Greater Houston Partnership, which represents nearly 900 companies in Texas’ largest city. “If they’re just implementing a federal mandate it falls on them.”

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Several large companies and major federal contractors declined to take sides in the debate Friday, and simply announced they would abide by federal regulations.

But there was almost unanimous defiance from Republican governors in the South, Midwest and West, who have opposed mask mandates and business restrictions and tried to bar schools from requiring masks.

Georgia Governor Brian Kemp suggested he could sue “to stop this openly illegal encroachment by the Biden administration.” Gov. Ive of Alabama referred to the rules as an “outrageous, overarching mandate.”

And in Florida, where a judge on Friday allowed a ban on school masks as a legal challenge works through the courts, Governor Ron DeSantis said in a fund-raising email that Biden had “declared war.” “By issuing vaccine requirements on the rule of law and the jobs of millions of Americans.

Republican leaders like Mr DeSantis are among governors grappling with the dire toll of the delta version this summer – resurgent deaths from intensive care units, classroom outbreaks and a pandemic that kills 1,500 people every day in the United States. Now, many are eager to wage a political battle against the Biden administration.

If their states prove powerless in court to block the new mandate – and if the mandates help reduce infection rates in their states – these governors will reap the benefits of having a healthier population and moving on from recent spikes. May those who have killed the South. special wickedness.

In recent weeks, as the crisis intensified, several governors in the South have sought to find a rhetorical strategy that both encourages vaccines and reaffirms that it is an individual medical choice that should be made without excessive pressure from the government. has been made.

That delicate balance was on display again Friday as Republican governors slammed the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate while touting the benefits of the shots.

Governor Tate Reeves of Mississippi, who called the mandate “terrible,” made a point Keeping in mind that “the vaccine is the only life saver.”

He added: “This is still America, and we still believe in freedom from tyrants.”

Even moderate Republican governors who imposed lockdowns at the start of the pandemic and promoted vaccines were critical of the broad mandate.

Democratic governors offered a mix of support and caution, reflecting the volatile politics of Washington’s mandate and the pandemic in several closely divided states. In Virginia, home to more than 140,000 federal employees, former Gov. Terry McAuliffe, who is running for a new term, said the mandate would help blunt the virus and lift an economy strained by the delta version. But in Michigan, Gov. Gretchen Whitmer’s office issued a statement saying it is reviewing the plan.

The issue of masks has not only divided states from one another, but has drawn hard lines within larger Republican-controlled states, where many cities and suburbs are run by local Democratic leaders and state capitals in rural areas hold disproportionate power. it occurs.

Mayor Van R. Johnson II of Savannah, Ga. lauded the vaccine mandate as a necessary step to tackle the pandemic in a Republican-run state that has seen a sharp rise in new cases since July.

“If we are going to defeat Covid we have to do it with very definite decisive actions, and our president has certainly decided to do that,” said Mr Johnson, a Democrat.

The federal vaccine mandate provided an easy opportunity for Republican politicians to rally their own political base by slamming the Democratic administration.

For Texas Governor Greg Abbott, the issue of mandates has been a fraught one since the start of the pandemic. Initially hesitant to make masks mandatory, he ordered Texans to wear them last summer.

That stance sparked an angry contradiction among some Republicans, contributed to the removal of leadership in the state’s party, and is the reason why he will face at least two primary challenges next year. Mr Abbott has since issued an order banning all vaccine or mask mandates.

Now the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate has offered a useful political foil for Mr Abbott, who rose to his office by relentlessly suing the Obama administration while being state attorney general. Texas has also sued the Biden administration for blocking many of its immigration policies.

The federal vaccine mandate, imposed without state support, struck some experts on the pandemic’s history as novel.

“This is historic,” said Dr. Howard Merkel, a pediatrician and professor of medical history at the University of Michigan. “There are broad powers that the president has, but he has never used. The Fed has always been very careful, if they get involved, they are invited by the governors.”

Reporting was contributed by Stacy Cowleyhandjob Lauren Hirsch And Katie Rogers.

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