President Joe Biden wants to mandate the COVID vaccine for millions of Americans in the workforce, but the measure is being met with considerable opposition.
In September, Biden instructed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to begin writing rules that would require companies of 100 or more employees to either require vaccines or test employees once a week.
“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said of the unvaccinated in September.
But private business owners are pushing back against the idea of these rules and are now trying unconventional methods to at least stall the mandate, which Biden hopes to have published soon.
Business owners and critics are using the lobbying method in attempts to slow down the policy process, according to Reuters.
“I’ve never seen anything like it,” said Eric Conn, who met with Biden officials on behalf of the Employers COVID-19 Prevention Coalition.
Normally, lobbying is used in Washington so that powerful and well-connected groups can meet with senior policy analysts in order to gain political advantage for interested parties. But in this case, it’s simply individual critics who are scheduling meetings with policy analysts to voice their opposition. This is highly unusual for individuals to get involved in lobbying like this.
“It’s generally the province of Washington lobbyists,” Rutgers University professor Stuart Shapiro said.
Thirty-six of the 129 half-hour meetings regarding the vaccine mandate were with individuals, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs told Reuters.
“Feel strongly about the OSHA vaccine mandate rule? Do something! If anyone wants to jam up the OSHA vaccine mandate rule, you can go to this page and request a meeting,” the wire service reported one firearms discussion forum as saying.
Individual business owners, however, are not alone in the quest to delay the vaccine mandate. Even giants like Disney and the Postal Service have met with lobbyists to ask for the mandate to be pushed back until after the holiday season. With labor shortages already causing damage, businesses do not want to further hinder themselves with a vaccine mandate that could lose more workers in the midst of the busiest time of year.
The U.S. Chamber of Commerce has pushed the administration to clarify its expectations for the vaccine and testing requirements, and lobbyists have been meeting with White House officials to discuss.
“We led off with the very serious concern of our members regarding the possibility of losing employees. That’s a very real concern and we were very strong in terms of describing it,” Marc Freedman, a top lobbyist who participated in the meeting with the Chamber of Commerce, told CNBC.
Along with big businesses, Republican governors and officials have voiced their opposition. In Texas, Gov. Greg Abbott already issued an executive order that will not allow any entity to mandate vaccines.
Back in September when Biden first announced his plan to mandate the vaccine in businesses, South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster immediately spoke out against it.
“Biden and the radical Democrats [have] thumbed their noses at the Constitution,” he said in a statement, according to The Associated Press.
Meanwhile, Republican attorneys general from 24 states sent a letter to Biden in opposition.
“Your plan is disastrous and counterproductive. From a policy perspective, this edict is unlikely to win hearts and minds-it will simply drive further skepticism. And at least some Americans will simply leave the job market instead of complying,” they wrote in the letter.
“This will further strain an already-too-tight labor market, burdening companies and (therefore) threatening the jobs of even those who have received a vaccine. Worse still, many of those who decide to leave their jobs rather than follow your directive will be essential healthcare workers.”
So between the individuals, the governors and businesses all getting involved in lobbying, the mandate process might be slowed down. Biden still would like to have the mandate published quickly, but that remains to be seen.
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