Biden inches toward vaccine mandate for federal workers

Biden inches toward vaccine mandate for federal workers

After fierce political lines were drawn over mask-wearing, President Joe Biden is bracing for backlash ahead of an expected mandate for federal government workers to be vaccinated against the novel coronavirus.

Biden's announcement, anticipated to cover both federal employees and contractors, promises to inflame passions amid a spike in delta variant COVID-19 cases. It also imperils the standing of the president and his party before the 2022 midterm elections after polls awarded them top marks for their handling of the pandemic.

WHITE HOUSE MIXED MASK MESSAGING COULD HAMPER ADHERENCE TO CDC GUIDANCE

Employers, including the federal government, have the right to mandate inoculations and should do so, according to leading North Carolina Democrat and attorney Shelia Huggins. The Justice Department endorsed Huggins's legal interpretation this week.

Its Office of Legal Counsel issued an opinion that federal law does not preclude the public or private sector from making a shot compulsory, even if the vaccines only have emergency use authorization.

"After undergrad, I applied for a job in a public health medical laboratory. I was told that the position required me to get a hepatitis B vaccination. I got the vaccination, and that was back in 1990," Huggins told the Washington Examiner.

Huggins, a Democratic National Committee member, encouraged Biden to focus on boosting immunization rates and not to become distracted by politics.

"This surge of people infected with the delta variant, which is more contagious and may cause more serious disease, is a threat to both lives and livelihood," she said. "We have to stop it, and the best way to do that is for people who can get vaccinated to do so."

Jeri Shepherd, a Colorado-based DNC member and attorney, urged Biden to go beyond a mandate. She implored the president to abolish the Senate filibuster so Democrats could pass sweeping liberal reforms to help voters through the pandemic, such as expanding socialized medicine, introducing a $15 federal minimum wage, and canceling student debt. Demonstrating leadership with policy will aid the party before the 2022 midterm election cycle, she contended.

"The Biden administration should not worry what the GOP may say or respond. The GOP will criticize in bad faith regardless of what the Biden administration will do," she said. "Their main role seems to be sowing chaos, even to the detriment of their own voting base."

The White House insisted Wednesday that Biden had not reached a decision regarding a mandate. Instead, spokeswoman Karine Jean-Pierre repeated Biden's objective to keep staff safe and save lives.

"The attestation of vaccination for federal employees is one option under strong consideration," she told reporters. "Confirming vaccination status or abiding by stringent COVID-19 protocols, like mandatory mask-wearing, even in communities not with high or subsequent substantial spread, and regular testing."

But Jean-Pierre acknowledged "requirements for vaccination may be under consideration for certain entities within the government." It is understood no federal employee will be fired over the rule if they opt for regular testing.

The White House did not reply to Washington Examiner inquiries concerning the percentage of personnel it estimates could be affected by the mandate.

The Department of Veteran Affairs laid the groundwork for a wider mandate this week, rolling out a rule for its patient-facing healthcare staff. Physicians, dentists, and nurses now have eight weeks to become inoculated against COVID-19 for free with department resources. California and New York City joined the VA in implementing similar measures, months after some colleges and universities took action. Other private businesses and organizations have since followed suit, including the Mayo Clinic and CNN.

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka has publicly supported mandate policies, along with several healthcare worker groups. Biden nominated Trumka's son for the Consumer Product Safety Commission this month. At the same time, the American Federation of Teachers opposes mandates, arguing individual workplaces should determine their own policies.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy previewed the tenor of Republican arguments against mandates more generally with his reaction to Congress updating its mask guidance to align with the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention's latest recommendations.

"Make no mistake — the threat of bringing masks back is not a decision based on science, but a decision conjured up by liberal government officials who want to continue to live in a perpetual pandemic state," he said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi called McCarthy "such a moron" over his comments.

This comes as the CDC advised vaccinated people this week to wear masks in public indoor spaces if they are in areas of the country with high or substantial COVID-19 transmission.

Roughly one-third of eligible Americans have not received a COVID-19 shot, a portion of the population becoming increasingly hostile toward the jabs while facilitating the mutation of the virus. It is a segment, too, that will likely be most angered by Biden's mandate.

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Almost three-fifths of Americans approve of Biden's management of the pandemic, down from about 70% in January. One-third disapproves of his approach, which is up from one-fourth in January.

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Tags: News, Biden, Biden Administration, Joe Biden, White House, Coronavirus, Vaccination

Original Author: Naomi Lim

Original Location: Biden inches toward vaccine mandate for federal workers