In the early days of the coronavirus pandemic, Operation Warp Speed was created as a partnership between public and private entities, leveraging federal support to speed up vaccine development. This was a major success for the Trump Administration who spearheaded the operation. Without these efforts and their leadership, the development, approval by the Food and Drug Administration as safe and effective, and distribution of multiple COVID-19 vaccines in record time would not have been possible. These vaccines played a large role in allowing us to safely gather with our families this Thanksgiving and for that I am truly thankful.
The previous administration focused on working with vaccine manufacturers to produce and deploy COVID-19 vaccines. They aimed to make them available to as many people as possible as quickly as possible, but wanted to empower individuals, in consultation with their doctors, to ultimately choose whether to utilize these vaccines. However, the current administration has reversed course and is now focused on unilateral mandates imposed through threats of major fines or job termination. After previously stating he would never mandate the COVID-19 vaccine, President Biden’s current approach is appalling. Enforced nationwide through executive action, these orders target health care workers, federal employees and contractors, and “large employers” with more than 100 employees, but indirectly impact virtually every American.
In order to institute these new mandates, the Biden Administration has stretched precedent and dramatically expanded previous understandings of emergency powers. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, implemented a large employer vaccine mandate as an Emergency Temporary Standard to circumvent the standard rulemaking process and create new enforcement authority and compliance burdens for both employees and employers. Federal judges found OSHA’s justification for this mandate suspicious enough that the 5th Circuit Court ordered a temporary injunction while the legal process continues. There are also numerous lawsuits challenging the other mandates. While this is good news for now, none of the lawsuits have been decided yet.
Beyond being unprecedented and disruptive, President Biden’s vaccine mandates also pose a threat to our nation’s workforce and supply chains. We are currently experiencing a workforce crisis in our country as employers struggle to fill jobs needed to make, transport, and sell goods. The vaccine mandates will only exacerbate this issue with forced layoffs. The potential impact here could be drastic, putting extreme pressure on an already struggling supply chain and subsequently increasing the dangers of inflation. We need to be boosting supply chain operations, not worsening the situation with vaccine mandates which will create shortages of essential workers, like truck drivers.
My colleagues and I have introduced multiple pieces of legislation aimed at repealing the federal employee and contractor mandates, blocking the mandate for health care workers, or using the Congressional Review Act authority to nullify the OSHA mandate. Unfortunately, these bills face an uphill battle and the most likely path to blocking the mandates goes through the courts. Regardless, I will continue my work to prevent Nebraskans from falling victim to President Biden’s federal overreach. Ensuring the wellbeing of those who live in the Third District is my priority, and President Biden’s vaccine mandates are harmful to that wellbeing, not helpful.