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WH accuses GOP of ‘getting in the way of saving lives’ by fighting against Biden’s vaccine mandate


The White House is confident that it can beat any Republican challenges to its new workplace vaccine mandate and claimed Thursday the GOP is trying to block the Biden administration from saving lives.

‘The question that we always have is and that we ask to the Republicans is why are they getting in the way?’ Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said during Thursday’s White House press briefing.

‘Why are they getting in the way of trying to protect and save lives? That’s all we’re trying to do,’ she added.

Jean-Pierre said the White House is ‘pretty confident’ the new Occupational Safety and Health Administration rules imposing compulsory vaccines on private companies will hold up in court against a slew of GOP lawsuits currently being filed.

‘The administration clearly has the authority to protect workers and actions announced by the president are designed to save lives and stop the spread of COVID,’ Jean-Pierre said.

The rule, which requires private companies with 100 or more employees to impose vaccine mandates on their workers, was officially announced by OSHA on Thursday – immediately leading to a flurry of lawsuits from Republican states and entities.

‘We have the legal authority,’ Jean-Pierre assured on Thursday, adding that the bigger concern is people not working because they are sick, not quitting because of the mandates.

‘People are sitting out of the workforce because of COVID concerns,’ she explained. ‘The worst disruption businesses have faced for nearly two years is their employees getting sick with COVID.’

Several Republicans immediately announced legal action on Thursday against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate after details were released of the new rule affecting more than 80 million workers at private companies and federal contractors.

Florida Governor Ron DeSantis announced Thursday he would join a lawsuit with Georgia, Alabama and private plaintiffs seeking to nullify Biden’s rule.

‘We’ve got to stand up,’ the Republican Trump ally said during a press conference in Tallahassee. ‘We’ve got to stand up for the constitutional order.’

The Republican National Committee is also suing Biden.

White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre said Thursday Republicans are ‘getting in the way of saving lives’ by fighting back against Joe Biden’s new vaccine mandates

‘Joe Biden failed to shut down the virus like he promised – he couldn’t do his job, so now he wants you to lose yours,’ RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel wrote in a statement Thursday.

‘While I am pro-vaccine, the Biden administration does not have the authority to force hardworking Americans to choose between being vaccinated and providing for their families,’ she added. ‘That’s why the RNC is suing the Biden administration over this unlawful vaccine mandate and will maintain every legal option to fight this authoritarian overreach.’

The new rule comes as there are already concerns over impacts the mandates could have on the already stunted U.S. economy, which is experiencing a worker shortage and supply chain issues ahead of the holiday season.

‘If you’re asking if we think the rules impact supply chain, the answer is no, we don’t think that it will,’ Jean-Pierre said at Thursday’s briefing.

Missouri’s Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich both announced Thursday their intentions to file lawsuits against the Biden administration on Friday.

‘Our office will file a lawsuit tomorrow morning once OSHA rules are officially published that will mandate COVID-19 vaccine requirements for private employers with more than 100 or more employees,’ Brnovich tweeted. ‘Arizona will again take action to protect hard-working taxpayers.’

Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate in Missouri, said: ‘I’ve been in discussions with businesses in Missouri, including a trailer manufacturing company in mid-Missouri, who say that this vaccine mandate will crush their business.’

‘We will be on file first thing [Friday] morning to halt this illegal, unconstitutional attempt by the Biden administration and the federal government to impose their will on thousands of Missouri businesses and millions of Missourians,’ he added.

The Republican Attorney Generals from Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee also filed a joint lawsuit against Biden’s new ‘unconstitutional’ vaccine mandates for federal contractors on Thursday.

‘The federal government contracts with private businesses and public agencies in states across the country, and the Commonwealth is no exception, meaning that numerous Kentuckians are subject to the Biden Administration’s unconstitutional vaccination requirement,’ Kentucky AG Daniel Cameron stated in a press release on the lawsuit.

‘We are taking the issue of federal overreach seriously and will protect the livelihoods of countless Kentuckians and Kentucky businesses from overbroad mandates,’ he added.

Both the private and federal contractor mandates from OSHA require that workers get the final – or only – dose of the COVID-19 vaccine by January 4, 2022. After the deadline, noncompliant companies can face fines up to $13,653 per unvaccinated worker.

The new rule also requires workers to get weekly testing if they do not get vaccinated, and the stringent testing regimes may need to be paid for out of employees’ pockets.

McDaniel wrote in her statement announcing legal action on Thursday: ‘This mandate is yet another attack on frontline workers, first responders, small businesses, and the rights of the American people.’

She also noted that by taking months to craft the rule and shifting the deadline to after the holidays to gain political capital, that Biden has negated justification for it to be considered an emergency to implement the mandate.

Jean-Pierre defended the consistent deadline, however, claiming that the administration wanted the avoid any confusion and ‘level the playing field’ for private companies and federal contractors.

OSHA staffers will be doing random inspections to check if businesses are complying and employees could have to pay for their own tests out of pocket. The agency is using emergency orders that usually deal with workers exposed to ‘grave dangers’ to enforce the standards. 

GOP lawmakers responded with fury and said some unvaccinated Americans were being forced to decide between putting food on the table or getting the shot, while retailers said the new rules will put an ‘unnecessary’ burden on businesses before the holiday season.

Red states are also likely to fight to stop the guidelines being put in place after the White House said they ‘preempt any inconsistent state or local laws, including laws that ban or limit an employer’s authority to require vaccination, masks, or testing.’

The stringent new rules have been put in place amid widespread backlash to mandates, including bids from furious Republicans who are trying to overturn it to keep people in their jobs amid fears of staff shortages and first responders being turned away from work in major cities.

On Wednesday San Francisco announced that children aged 5-11 will be forced to prove they’ve had the shot to enter restaurants and entertainment venues. The new rule comes just a day after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention approved the Pfizer vaccine for children in that age group.

In a statement on Thursday, President Biden said vaccination requirements are ‘good for the economy’ and they will help send people back to work.

‘For our country, the choice is simple: get more people vaccinated, or prolong this pandemic and its impact on our country. The virus will not go away by itself, or because we wish it away: we have to act. Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic.’ 

Companies with 100 or more workers will face fines up to $13,653 for each unvaccinated employee in the New Year

Companies with 100 or more workers will face fines up to $13,653 for each unvaccinated employee in the New Year

Sanitation workers in New York City are protesting the vaccine mandate, which has caused a slow down in pickups and has led to immediate garbage pileups in the city (shown here in Queens on November 3)

Sanitation workers in New York City are protesting the vaccine mandate, which has caused a slow down in pickups and has led to immediate garbage pileups in the city (shown here in Queens on November 3)

A large pile of trash accumulates along 54th Street in New York City on Wednesday as sanitation workers protest the vaccine mandate

A large pile of trash accumulates along 54th Street in New York City on Wednesday as sanitation workers protest the vaccine mandate

FINES, PAYING FOR WEEKLY TESTING AND DEADLINES: NEW OSHA RULES FOR 80 MILLION AMERICANS

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued on Thursday a COVID-19 Vaccination and Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)

Impacted Companies:  

Private businesses and companies with 100 or more employees fall under the purview of the new rule

Requirements:  

All employees must receive their final – or only – dose of the coronavirus vaccine by January 4, 2022. 

If employees do not have their doses done by this date, they will need to receive weekly testing and produce a negative result. Employers do not need to pay for weekly testing. Instead, starting January 4, unvaccinated workers will need to pay out of pocket for their testing. 

Employees who are not vaccinated by the deadline will also be required to wear masks in their work place. The masking requirement goes into effect by December 5 for unvaccinated workers. 

Enforcement and Penalties: 

OSHA will enforce the new rule through inspections, whether planned or without advanced notice – just like any other workplace rule. 

Employers have the right to require OSHA compliance officers to obtain an inspection warrant before entering the worksite. 

Workplaces who are found noncompliant with the rule could face up to a $13,653 fine for each unvaccinated employee, the same standard for other violations. 

Repeat offenders or those found to be willfully noncompliant could face a maximum fine of $136,532. It is not immediately clear what constitutes a repeat offender. 

Other provisions:  

– The new rule preempts any inconsistent state or local laws, including laws that ban or limit an employer’s authority to require vaccination, masks, or testing. 

– Companies are required to start pay their workers by December 5 for the time it takes them to go get the vaccine and any days off if the event of side effects or recovery that prevents them from working. 

– Employees who test positive for COVID-19 myst be immediately removed from the workplace.  

– Employers may be required to pay for the weekly testing in the event of other laws or collective bargaining agreements.      

Senator Marsha Blackburn said in a statement: ‘Our economy is crumbling, and President Biden is doing everything in his power to make it worse. While businesses scramble to fill the 10.4 million open jobs in our country, Biden’s vaccine mandate will push even more Americans out of the workforce.’

She also tweeted Thursday morning: ‘Joe Biden is firing essential workers.’

Republican Representative Jody Hice insisted to DailyMail.com: ‘American workers should never have to choose between their job or a vaccine.’ 

‘Millions of American workers will face job over the COVID-19 vaccine mandate, but many of them are unfortunately bound to tight non-compete clauses,’ the Georgia lawmakers added. ‘If terminated, these people will be held in workers’ purgatory – they won’t be able to earn a living, and they can’t find a new job. How are they expected to put food on their table? This is unacceptable!’ 

Congressman Andy Biggs of Arizona said: ‘Enough is enough.’ 

‘Since day one of the Biden Administration, federal agencies, like OSHA, have been weaponized against the American people,’ he told DailyMail.com. ‘OSHA has no right twisting the arm of the private sector and forcing ultimatums on employees’ personal healthcare decisions. That’s why my bill, the NOSHA Act, abolishes OSHA and its bureaucratic regulations. It’s time to end the Big Brother state and fight back against these unconstitutional agencies.’

This week, Biggs introduced a bill to abolish OSHA after the agency created and imposed Biden’s rule forcing private businesses to mandate coronavirus vaccines.

‘OSHA’s existence is yet another example of the federal government creating agencies to address issues that are more appropriately handled by state governments and private employers,’ Biggs, an attorney and former president of the Arizona State Senate, said in a Tuesday press release.  

In a statement to DailyMail.com, New York Republican Congresswoman Claudia Tenney said the ‘OSHA rule far exceeds the boundaries of executive authority.’ 

‘President Biden has made the decision to render our constitutional guardrails completely irrelevant,’ she added. ‘It is truly the point of no return for this Administration, and the rule will further exacerbate an already disastrous labor crisis.’ 

Tenney has introduced two bills related to the vaccine – one to fight the mandate and one to protect workers who are fired for deciding not to get the jab. 

Vaccine mandates have already been put in place in many cities across the country. 

But as the administration’s focus on the vaccine mandates increase, Americans’ view of the COVID pandemic being the top issue facing the country decreases.

Instead, the top concern of Americans going into the 2022 midterm elections is the U.S. economy and rising inflation, which critics claim will only get worse with Biden’s new mandate.

An October Reuters/Ipsos poll found just 12 per cent of adults say that health issues like coronavirus as a top national priority, down from 20 per cent in February.

Meanwhile, two-thirds of the country, including the majority of all political parties, say that ‘inflation is a very big concern for me.’

GOP Representative Byron Donalds of Florida told DailyMail.com: ‘Despite the Democrats’ shellacking this week, the Biden administration is pressing on with their unconstitutional mandate requiring private businesses to mandate vaccination to avoid fines up to one million dollars.’

‘Americans from southwest Florida and all across the nation will have to choose between food on the table or taking a shot they feel they do not need,’ he lamented. ‘This tyrannical mandate is a gross infringement of medical privacy and the individual rights of every American and won’t hold water in the judicial system.’  

The OSHA rule is being implemented as an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS), which is a rare authority by the Labor Department agency that is meant to help workers if they could potentially be exposed to grave danger in the workplace.

A July congressional report notes how seldom the ETS is used.

Previous to the COVID pandemic, the OSHA ETS was created and used to address the dangers of asbestos to employees.

OSHA issued an ETS related to the pandemic in June to help protect health care workers from COVID by mandating hospitals, nursing homes and other related workplaces to draft a plan on keeping employees safe by improving ventilation, supplying adequate personal protective equipment (PPE) and implementing social distancing measures or building barriers.

Now the ETS is being used again to require vaccines in private workplaces nationwide. 

Senate Republicans launched an effort on Wednesday to use a congressional procedure to overturn Biden’s new vaccine mandate announced in September as his administration tries to force increases in vaccination rates.

Senator Mike Braun of Indiana , the top Republican on the Senate Subcommittee on Employment and Workplace Safety, said he and 40 other GOP senators would begin the process of using the Congressional Review Act to overturn the mandate.

‘Last year we did everything we could to keep people in their jobs,’ he tweeted. ‘Now Joe Biden is doing everything he can to push them out.’

‘Today, I’m leading 41 of my colleagues to strike down his oppressive vaccine mandate for businesses,’ Braun added.

The businessman-turned-senator told Fox News: ‘Now, when we’re finally at kind of an equilibrium, you’re putting an ultimatum on them – either get the vaccine or lose your job.’

A senior Biden administration official said the penalties for those who do not comply with the workplace vaccine mandate will be commensurate with fines for all other rule violations.

OSHA will enforce the new rule mandating vaccinations for employees in private industry, just like it does for any other workplace regulation put in place by the Labor Department.

For each employee found to be unvaccinated, the company or business will receive a fine in the amount of no more than $13,653 – the same maximum penalty given for any other workplace violation.

OSHA estimates the rule could prevent more than 250,000 hospitalizations in its first six months after being put in place.

The new rule requires that the alternative testing route for those who do not want the vaccine will need to be paid for by the workers and not the employer.

‘Given that vaccines are safe, free, and the most effective way for workers to be protected from COVID-19 transmission at work, the ETS does not require employers to provide or pay for tests,’ the OSHA rule states.

It adds, however, that ’employers may be required to pay for testing because of other laws or collective bargaining agreements.’

Biden promised as president-elect in December that his administration would never impose vaccine mandates on private industry. He broke that promise in September when announcing the new requirement.

As vaccines became widely available, Biden almost immediately imposed mandates for vaccinations for federal employees. 

At least 40 companies, unions and individuals requested meetings with the the White House Office of Management and Budget to gain clarification regarding the requirements, implementation and enforcement.

A couple and their child walk past a pile of trash accumulated on 7th Avenue in New York City on Wednesday as sanitation workers protest the vaccine mandates

A couple and their child walk past a pile of trash accumulated on 7th Avenue in New York City on Wednesday as sanitation workers protest the vaccine mandates

New York City firefighters and their supporters protest the city's vaccination mandate on November 1, 2021

New York City firefighters and their supporters protest the city’s vaccination mandate on November 1, 2021

Workers, including firefighters, attend a Worldwide Walkout in Manhattan on Wednesday protesting the coronavirus vaccine mandate

Workers, including firefighters, attend a Worldwide Walkout in Manhattan on Wednesday protesting the coronavirus vaccine mandate

Many pleaded that the mandates be put off until after the holidays as supply chain bottlenecks and worker shortages already threaten to further stunt the U.S. economy during the biggest shopping and shipping season of the year.

Biden already had to work to make a deal with private industry to keep the Port of Los Angeles open 24/7 to help quel traffic jams of shipping container ships amid a trucker shortage.

Many in the trucking industry, including unions, have said that drivers would rather quit, be fired or retire than comply with Biden’s mandate. Others have said that drivers might try to get a job at a smaller company with less than 100 workers to avoid the vaccine requirement. 

The National Retail Federation (NRF), the world’s largest retail association, was one of the entities requesting the mandate be put off.

NRF Senior Vice President for Government Relations David French released a statement on Thursday in response to the new OSHA emergency temporary standard.

‘Over the past 19 months, retailers across the country have taken extraordinary measures to keep their employees, customers and communities safe during the COVID-19 pandemic,’ he wrote. ‘As part of these efforts, retailers have distributed, encouraged, incentivized and, in some instances, mandated the vaccine.’

‘Since the president’s announcement of the vaccine mandate for private industry, the seven-day average number of cases in the United States has plummeted by more than half,’ he added. ‘Nevertheless, the Biden administration has chosen to declare an ’emergency’ and impose burdensome new requirements on retailers during the crucial holiday shopping season.’

‘As an industry that supports one in four American jobs, retailers have consistently requested that the administration take public comment on this new vaccine mandate,’ French wrote.

‘It is critical that the rule not cause unnecessary disruption to the economy, exacerbate the preexisting workforce shortage or saddle retailers, who are already taking considerable steps to keep their employees and customers safe, with needless additional requirements and regulatory burdens.’ 

Legal experts say it’s ‘fundamentally undemocratic’ and unconstitutional for Biden to use emergency orders meant for asbestos to compel workers to get the vaccine 

As part of the White House’s aggressive new approach to fighting the pandemic, the president directed the Labor Department’s regulatory agency, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), to mandate all businesses with at least 100 employees either require all of them to be vaccinated or submit to weekly COVID testing.

The agency has the authority to issue an ’emergency temporary standard’ (ETS) if it can prove workers are exposed to a grave danger and the rule is deemed necessary to address it.

A Congressional report updated in July notes how rarely emergency standards are used. Before the COVID pandemic the last OSHA ETS was struck down in 1983, when a federal court said the agency failed to support its claim that asbestos exposure in the workplace needed to be further reduced due to a significant adverse impact on employees’ health.

OSHA issued an ETS in June to protect health care workers from COVID by mandating workplaces like hospitals and nursing homes to draft a plan on keeping employees safe, improving ventilation, supply adequate PPE and implement social distancing measures or build barriers where that’s not possible.

It also requires relevant companies to give employees paid time off to get vaccinated or paid leave in the event they test positive.

And while the idea might be ‘well-intentioned,’ a Friday morning op-ed claims, Biden also risks ‘shredding the social fabric’ of an already divided country by stretching the bounds of constitutionality.

‘The president should not — and likely does not — have the power to unilaterally compel millions of private sector workers to get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs,’ Republican commentator Robby Soave wrote in the New York Times.

Duke University senior lecturing fellow Dan Bowling pointed out to McClatchy News that OSHA’s investigative and enforcement capabilities are relatively weak compared to the IRS or Securities and Exchange Commission.

‘If somebody falls off a ladder that was broken in a place of business and breaks his or her leg, that’s pretty easy to prove employer liability. The employer would have to report the accident under OSHA,’ Bowling said. ‘If someone catches COVID who works somewhere that doesn’t follow the vaccine mandate, how do you prove that?’

Among the parties challenging the strict measure in court are the Republican National Committee, as well as the governors of at least nine states.

South Dakota Governor Kristi Noem, who’s resisted implementing a mask mandate even when its COVID hospitalizations and deaths were among the highest in the country, promised to see Biden ‘in court.’

Georgia’s Gov. Brian Kemp vowed to ‘pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach.’

But in states like Montana, Texas and Florida, which all said they intend to sue, OSHA’s ETS rules predate similar existing state guidelines – which would make a legal case more of an uphill battle than states that created their own OSHA-approved regulatory bodies after the fact.

What is OSHA?

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration was created by President Richard Nixon under the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970.

OSHA has jurisdiction over most private and public workplaces across the country, but some states have their own OSHA-approved regulatory agencies.

The agency regulates health and safety standards in the workplace. To enforce that it’s able to conduct unannounced inspections ensuring those standards are met.

Since it was created workplace deaths fell dramatically by nearly 63 percent, according to OSHA. An estimated 14,000 workers – or 38 per day – were killed on the job in 1970. But 2018 the number fell to 5,250, despite a doubling of the total US workforce.

OSHA’s process for enacting new workplace standards includes consulting a number of relevant advisory committees linked to the Labor and Heath and Human Services Departments, as well as consulting business owners and allowing a window for public input, at least 30 days but ‘usually 60 days or more.’

Businesses in states with their own OSHA-approved agencies can ask for a ‘variance’ in the rule if they can’t comply by the effective date.

If the state is under federal OSHA jurisdiction then the agency will have to work with the state to determine if the exception can be granted

What is an Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)?

An ETS allows OSHA to bypass the consultation process and public input window if it determines ‘workers are in grave danger due to exposure to toxic substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or to new hazards and that an emergency standard is needed to protect them.’

Emergency standards can take effect immediately but only stay in effect until replaced by a permanent standard.

That proposed permanent standard must go through the regular bureaucratic channels and be decided upon within six months.

During that time the temporary rule can be challenged in an appropriate federal court.

OSHA can issue ‘temporary variance’ rules to employers who prove they can’t comply with a regulation in time, but they have to demonstrate they are taking all the necessary and possible steps to protect workers, and show a roadmap toward compliance.

Source: OSHA

 

 



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