The White House put out a statement from Biden on Thursday stating that vaccine mandates are “nothing new” and that Americans have “been living with them throughout our lives for all sorts of diseases.”
“Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic. And while I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good,” the president said.
“So I instituted requirements — and they are working. They protect our workers and have helped us reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans over the age of 12 from approximately 100 million in late July when I began requirements to just about 60 million today.”
Biden likened the mandate to routine safety rules in workplaces and encouraged employers to “accelerate our path out of this pandemic, save lives, and protect our economic recovery.”
Biden’s immunization requirement will be enforced via the DOL’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). He said employees will have the option of weekly testing in lieu of a vaccine.
The Biden administration previously required all federal employees and those working for federal contractors to be vaccinated.
In addition, the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) will require vaccination for those employed at the 76,000 health care centers that participate in Medicare and Medicaid. The decision will impact about 17 million healthcare workers, who will need to receive at least one dose of a vaccine by December 5 of this year and be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022.
In a press release announcing the policy, CMS indicated that there will be “exemptions based on recognized medical conditions or religious beliefs, observances, or practices.”
However, critics of vaccine mandates, especially Texas Republicans, have contended that vaccination should be an individual’s choice that should not be imposed on people by the state.
The Republican Party of Texas already called for a fourth special session after the third special session concluded on October 19.
On Thursday, Rep. Brian Harrison (R-Waxahachie) called for an “immediate” special session in part because Governor Greg Abbott’s executive order against vaccine mandates is “unlikely to fully protect us against Biden’s mandates and is already being disregarded.”
During the third called session, Harrison introduced House Bill (HB) 168, which would have spelled out an “informed consent” requirement for COVID-19 vaccination and stipulated that one cannot consent to a vaccine if it has been mandated.
In an interview with The Texan, Harrison said he “absolutely” would reintroduce HB 168, though at this point he is unsure whether any modifications would be made to language the bill.
Harrison, who was the chief of staff to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar under President Trump, also responded to Biden’s argument that vaccine requirements are not a novel concept.
“[President Biden] is lying if he says they are nothing new. Vaccine mandates have never, in the history of our republic, come from the federal government,” Harrison said. “There is precedent for state and local mandates, but there is no precedent for the federal government to order a needle into the arm of individual Americans.”
Indicating that the target of the bill is COVID-19 mandates imposed by the government, Harrison emphasized that HB 168 did not include any new regulatory burdens on businesses.
The text of the bill contained a provision that read, “For the purposes of this section, an individual lacks the capacity to provide informed consent for a medical treatment involving the administration of a COVID-19 vaccine if the individual has been compelled or coerced into being vaccinated against COVID-19 contrary to the individual vaccination preference.”
The bill provided that health care providers could be liable for at least $5,000 for administering a COVID-19 without informed consent.
Though Harrison declined to speculate on where Speaker Dade Phelan (R-Beaumont) or other members of the Texas House leadership might stand on a fourth special session, he did express that time is running out.
“What I do know is that the urgency for states to act is going to grow by the day, and if a state like Texas, who has liberty and freedom ingrained into the core of our ethos, we should be actually leading the other 49 states and fighting back against this tyrannical overreach,” Harrison told The Texan.
The Texas Freedom Caucus, a coalition of conservative lawmakers in the Texas House led by Rep. Mayes Middleton (R-Wallisville), tweeted a statement indicating its support for reconvening in Austin.
“Millions of Texans are having their jobs threatened by Biden’s tyrannical vaccine mandates. The Legislature must act to protect people’s freedoms and jobs, and we fully support a 4th Special Session,” the caucus wrote.
A copy of House Bill 168 can be found below.
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Hayden Sparks is a senior reporter for The Texan and a lifelong resident of the Lone Star State. He has coached competitive speech and debate and has been involved in politics since a young age. One of Hayden's favorite quotes is by Sam Houston: "Texas has yet to learn submission to any oppression, come from what source it may."