Republican officials in Texas have rhetorically pushed back against Biden’s announcement, and although the status quo leaves Biden’s planned vaccine mandate unchallenged, Attorney General Ken Paxton said that he would be suing the administration over its action.
“Biden’s vaccine mandate is an assault on private businesses,” said Gov. Greg Abbott. “I issued an Executive Order protecting Texans’ right to choose whether they get the COVID vaccine & added it to the special session agenda. Texas is already working to halt this power grab.”
However, the order is reminiscent of his order in the early days of the pandemic that purported to ban governmental entities from issuing mask mandates but which he later said was designed to allow governmental entities to require businesses to require face coverings.
Similarly, the current executive order does not prohibit either employers from requiring vaccinations as a condition of employment or governmental entities from mandating that for businesses.
At the time of publishing, the governor’s office did not respond to a request for clarification about how Abbott’s executive order will affect the measures pushed by Biden.
Abbott has given the legislature an opportunity to address vaccine mandates in his proclamation for another special session, though his call specifically asks lawmakers to pass “legislation regarding whether any state or local governmental entities in Texas can mandate that an individual receive a COVID-19 vaccine and, if so, what exemptions should apply to such mandate.”
It remains to be seen whether his call is broad enough for lawmakers to push back against a federal mandate on private businesses, not individuals directly, or even if legislation will garner enough support to make it through the process.
The legislature passed a bill earlier this year that was signed into law to prohibit COVID-19 “vaccine passports,” but that legislation only prohibits businesses from requiring proof of vaccination for customers.
Legislation to prohibit employers from mandating vaccinations for employees has not been enacted.
On a different legal front, Texas’ attorney general has said that he intends to sue the Biden administration over the measure.
“Biden’s new nat’l vaxx mandate on private biz may be the most unconstitutional, illegal thing I’ve ever seen out of any Admin in modern American history,” said Paxton. “This is an egregious, tyrannical power grab that stands no chance in court. I’ll be suing this disastrous Admin very soon.”
Paxton reiterated that he’ll be taking the issue to court “soon,” but did not give a specific time frame.
Pushing more vaccinations on Americans is only one part of Biden’s “path out of the pandemic” that he unveiled on Thursday.
More detailed, his plan will include:
- The Department of Labor is developing a rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or “produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work.” A related rule will require such employers to provide paid time off for people to be vaccinated.
- An executive order “requiring vaccinations for all federal workers and for millions of contractors that do business with the federal government.”
- The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services will require vaccinations for “workers in most health care settings that receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements.”
- The plan “calls on entertainment venues like sports arenas [. . .] to require that their patrons be vaccinated or show a negative test for entry.”
- Making booster shots free once authorized or approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
- Requiring staff in head start programs, Department of Defense schools, and Bureau of Indian Education-operated schools to be vaccinated.
- Calling on governors to mandate vaccinations for teachers in state schools.
- Supporting the FDA in the “independent scientific review of a vaccine for those individuals under the age of 12.”
- Taking efforts to expand the availability and affordability of testing.
- Double fines for face mask violations for interstate travel, such as on airplanes.
- Continue masking requirements on federal property.
- Increase the funding a small business can receive through the COVID Economic Injury Disaster Loan program and streamline the process for loan forgiveness through the Paycheck Protection Program.
- Increase the distribution of monoclonal antibody treatment and take steps to broaden who can administer the treatment.
Biden, who previously said that COVID-19 vaccines should not be mandatory, had a sharply different tone towards unvaccinated individuals in his remarks on his plan.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin,” said Biden. “And your refusal has cost all of us. So, please, do the right thing.”
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Daniel Friend is a reporter for The Texan. He participated in a Great Books program at Azusa Pacific University and graduated in 2019 with a degree in Political Science. He has studied C.S. Lewis’s science fiction trilogy and in his spare time you might find him writing his own novel partly inspired by the series.