House Republicans have launched an all-out war on the remaining Covid vaccine mandates being enforced by the Biden administration. So far they have won some important concessions, but are pushing for more.
The Spectator spoke with several key players involved in the legislative battle, which they claim forced the Biden administration to finally declare an end to some of its coronavirus emergency powers later this year. The Republicans, however, want them shut down right now.
The House of Representatives will be taking up a flurry of legislation, which includes the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act, introduced by Representative Jeff Duncan of South Carolina, which would repeal the Covid vax mandate for Medicare and Medicaid workers
Additionally, Representative James Comer of Kentucky is introducing the SHOW UP Act that would revert all federal agencies to the telework policies they had in 2019. Fellow Kentucky congressman Brett Guthrie introduced the Pandemic is Over Act, and Arizona representative Paul Gosar introduced a resolution that would terminate the national health emergency.
During a meeting of Republican staffers this week, House Majority Leader Steve Scalise’s staff said the push for pre-pandemic policies is a top legislative priority for House Republicans.
Representative Max Miller, who co-sponsored Duncan’s legislation, told me he is “glad” that the House GOP is prioritizing repealing the “Biden administration’s draconian vaccine mandate for our healthcare heroes.”
After taking back the House, Republicans acted quickly to repeal the military’s Covid vax mandate. Representative Darrell Issa of California, an Army veteran, told me the GOP is just getting started undoing the damage that the vaccine mandates did. Issa calls them a “signature abuse of presidential power.”
The legislation Republicans are moving on, which Hill sources concede could face long odds of passing in the Democratic-held Senate, tap into a sense of frustration that Republicans across the House conference are feeling. “As a father of three young girls, I strongly believe parents, not the federal government, know what is best for their children,” Indiana congressman Jim Banks told me. “It is dangerous and immoral to allow the Biden administration to leverage access to education to enforce their authoritarian mandates.”
Representative Andy Ogles, a freshman member who rose to national prominence for defying Covid vaccine mandates from OSHA while mayor of Maury County, Tennessee, told me that the Republicans’ bills offer him a chance to fulfill core campaign promises. “In my previous role, I told my constituents that I would rather personally go to jail than allow the citizens and local businesses of my county to be forced into following vaccination and mask mandates.”
While Republicans like Ogles and Miller describe these measures as common sense and “listening to the people,” there is no sense that the Biden administration agrees, even though the president himself has previously declared the pandemic “over.”
In an email the White House sent to congressional offices, reviewed by The Spectator, the Office of Management and Budget’s Legislative Affairs Department attacked the bills being proposed by Republicans, declaring several of them to be a “grave disservice to the American people.” However, the administration did confirm that it will roll back some of the pandemic emergency declarations later this year. Hill Republicans view this as a win, but also as a way for the administration to give Democrats cover for voting against their bills.
Biden’s announcement, which some Republicans view as an implicit concession that their bills are making major policy changes, does not affect the Duncan bill for federal health care workers. Republicans do see it as an acknowledgment that the legislation from Guthrie and Gosar forced the administration’s hand. Scalise even thanked the Biden administration for following House Republicans’ lead on forcing a formal end to the coronavirus pandemic.
However, the Biden administration’s charge of “wide-ranging chaos and uncertainty throughout the healthcare system” if the Republicans’ legislative agenda were to pass is not convincing members.
“The Biden White House continues to play politics with Covid-19 and make a mockery of science and public health,” Representative Mike Ezell told me.
“The American people are tired of these games. We all know the pandemic is over — it’s time for Washington to start acting like it.”