Republicans Express Concerns After Mandate Questions Go Unanswered

By Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.
October 28, 2021 Updated: October 28, 2021

Republican lawmakers are raising concerns about the potential impact of President Joe Biden’s forthcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandates for federal employees and tens of millions of public-sector workers.

In a letter addressed to the directors of three federal agencies directly involved, Reps. James Comer (R-Ky.) and Jody Hice (R-Ga.) request more information on the mandates, including the current number of vaccinated federal workers, documentation tracking federal-employee terminations, and information on mandate enforcement.

The letter questions White House claims that vaccine requirements will only cause minimal worker resignations. It also calls the mandates “authoritarian and extreme” and suggests they may not hold up in court.

Comer is ranking member of the House Committee of Oversight and Reform, and Hice is a ranking member of the Subcommittee on Government Operations.

Their letter comes in response to questions remaining unanswered after an Oct. 7 staff-level briefing by the U.S. Office of Personnel Management (OPM), the White House Office of Management and Budget (OMB), and the General Services Administration (GSA) on two Biden executive orders.

The orders, announced Sept. 9, require all federal employees and contractors to receive the vaccine by Dec. 8, and order all businesses with 100 or more employees to require staff to take the shot, or provide weekly negative COVID tests.

Businesses that don’t comply could face fines.

On Oct. 12, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) finalized the initial draft of an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) set to implement Biden’s order. OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs is conducting a review of the standard and a finalized rule is expected in coming weeks.

A recent letter from the American Trucking Association (ATA) to OMB also expressed concerns about the soon-to-be imposed mandates. That letter says the trucking industry could lose as much as 37 percent of its drivers to retirement and attrition because of the orders.

White House officials have said repeatedly the administration does not expect mass resignations as a result of the mandates.

Press secretary Jen Psaki notes flexibility in the mandates, saying the first step to address those refusing the shot is not firing, or quitting, but counselling.

She also regularly cites data from several major companies that have achieved vaccination rates above 90 percent after implementing their own requirements.

The letter from the Republican congressmen goes on to call the president’s response to the pandemic “sluggish”.

It suggests the rates of COVID-related cases, hospitalizations and deaths—the given reasons for the mandates—may continue to decline and dissipate before the rules can be fully implemented.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) director Dr. Rochelle Walensky reported a continual decline the virus’ spread on Oct. 27, with a 16 percent decrease for average weekly cases, and a 54 percent drop in hospitalizations.

Nick Ciolino
Nick Ciolino covers the White House.