Over the past few months, I have heard clear opposition from many residents of Virginia’s Ninth Congressional District to President Biden’s coronavirus vaccine mandates.
I share this opposition and have expressed it before in this column. I am vaccinated, and I urge others to consider getting vaccinated themselves if they are not already, but I believe such a decision should be left to an individual based on his or her beliefs and health.
Since President Biden announced his planned mandates on September 9, much has happened.
His announcement was only the first step of the process. He issued executive orders on that date extending the mandate to federal employees and contractors. Two other mandates, however, had to go through more extensive regulatory procedures.
One, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), required vaccinations or continuous COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated individuals at any private employer with 100 or more employees. The other, issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), imposed vaccine mandates on health care providers participating in Medicare and Medicaid.
Legal and constitutional questions surround these mandates. For example, can a health care provider, such as a hospital, face extensive, burdensome, and onerous new requirements on employees in order to continue its participation in Medicare and Medicaid?
Both of these mandates constitute overreach by the Federal Government, and they skipped the full rulemaking process, which requires notice and comment periods.
These mandates intrude into the affairs of ordinary Americans and their employers. Further, they are counterproductive.
We heard testimony to this effect during an October hearing of the Energy and Commerce Committee’s Subcommittee on Health, on which I serve. One of the witnesses was Ballad Health CEO Alan Levine. He noted the challenges faced by rural hospitals in recruiting and retaining staff under normal circumstances, let alone during an ongoing pandemic.
During the time allotted to me for questions, I pointed out that a one size fits all mandate would exacerbate those challenges. At a time when health care workers feel the strain of their continuous efforts against the coronavirus, the last thing the Federal Government should do is put in place more burdens.
In an op-ed for the Wall Street Journal, Seema Verma, CMS Administrator during the Trump Administration, further spelled out some of the consequences of the mandate for hospitals:
Already-exhausted healthcare workers would have to work longer hours to compensate for the termination of unvaccinated colleagues, leading to more burnout and retirements. This could lead to delays in care, or the postponement of needed healthcare services. If patients put off needed surgeries or preventive services like mammograms that can lead to more diagnoses of advanced diseases, which are more complicated and expensive to treat.
I support using the tools at Congress’ disposal to push back against the Biden Administration’s overreach. I along with others introduced a Congressional Review Act resolution to overturn the OSHA rule, and I spoke at a press conference advocating for it.
Lawsuits have been filed by various parties opposed to the mandates, and they have met with success in some federal courts so far.
The OSHA rule was stayed on November 12 by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, meaning it cannot be enforced at present.
The CMS rule was blocked by two district courts, which found that the agency likely exceeded its authority and that the plaintiffs sufficiently demonstrated that they would suffer irreparable harm if the rule was not prevented from going into effect while litigation continues. In our area, Ballad Health suspended its vaccine requirement as a result.
The final word on these cases has not been pronounced, but I am encouraged that courts have recognized legal and constitutional problems with vaccine mandates.
Opposition to vaccine mandates respects a person’s rights. I have talked to people in the district who, like me, are vaccinated but just don’t think it is the government’s business. We can look after each other and take care of our own health without any more edicts from Washington.
– Congressman H. Morgan Griffith