WASHINGTON — U.S. President Joe Biden’s push for the government to order employers to make unvaccinated workers get COVID vaccines faces pushback from conservatives and civil liberties advocates worried about an overreach of executive and federal power.
Biden announced Thursday that the U.S. government was formulating an order to require private employers with 100 or more workers to mandate vaccines or have the unvaccinated be subject to weekly tests.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love,” Biden said.
Biden blamed the unvaccinated for the rise in COVID hospitalizations stemming from the Delta variant of the virus.
“The unvaccinated overcrowd our hospitals, are overrunning the emergency rooms and intensive care units, leaving no room for someone with a heart attack, or (pancreatitis) or cancer,” Biden said.
Conservatives and libertarians are criticizing the COVID vaccine mandate arguing it oversteps executive power and steps on personal medical choices and freedoms.
U.S. Rep. Andy Harris, R-Md-1st., called Biden’s planned employer vaccine mandate a “socialist authoritarian” policy.
Others from the right also promised to fight the White House order which is being formulated by the U.S. Department of Labor.
"The Biden vaccine mandate is tyrannical and authoritarian. The president of the United States is threatening the livelihood of any American who does not comply with his medical orders,” said Larry Elder, a conservative Republican running for California governor in the state’s recall election.
Biden also wants sports, performing arts and concert venues to require proof of vaccinations from fans attending events.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey also promised to fight Biden’s COVID vaccine mandates as well as a federal push to support school districts in their states who want mask mandates.
"This is exactly the kind of big government overreach we have tried so hard to prevent in Arizona — now the Biden-Harris administration is hammering down on private businesses and individual freedoms in an unprecedented and dangerous way. This will never stand up in court,” said Ducey.
The federal vaccine mandate through employers will also face court challenges to its constitutionality and whether an executive order sidesteps the separation of powers.
“South Dakota will stand up to defend freedom,” said South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem. “See you in court.”
Vaccine mandate advocates point to a 1905 Supreme Court ruling that affirmed government smallpox vaccine requirements.
The federal courts and U.S. Supreme Court has also upheld COVID vaccine mandates imposed by universities and hospitals. The Supreme Court could see alliances between pro-business conservatives who think employers can mandate shots and liberal justices who support government authority.
Still, there are questions whether Biden has the power to mandate vaccine requirements by private employers and in turn compel unvaccinated workers to get shots.
The planned government vaccine mandates are aimed at 80 million unvaccinated Americans, Biden said.
Justin Amash, a former congressman from Michigan, said Biden’s planned mandate oversteps executive powers.
“There’s no authority for this. This is legislative action that bypasses the legislative branch. If you care about representative government — if you’re consistent regardless of who’s president — then it doesn’t matter that you like the policy; this mandate is an abuse of power,” he said.
Amash also hit at Democratic backers of vaccine requirements.
“Many of the people who claim to care deeply about voting rights show utter contempt for representative government. They are cheerleaders for undemocratic, unilateral executive lawmaking and the unaccountable, omnipotent administrative state,” Amash said.
Public opinion polls have shown support from Democrats for vaccine mandates and Biden cited concerns about the Delta variant and curtailing the pandemic in his Thursday announcement of new COVID orders.
"The bottom line: We’re going to protect vaccinated workers from unvaccinated co-workers. We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America," Biden said.
Still, some Democrats are quiet on the vaccine mandate push even as they were extremely vocal yesterday in hailing the U.S. Justice Department suing Texas over a law aimed at curtailing abortions after six weeks.
Ironically, some of the privacy and medical freedom arguments that are the basis of the 1973 Roe v. Wade will be used in the legal and political challenges to COVID vaccine mandates.