Kansas Republicans object to Biden’s expansive vaccine mandate
photo by: Sherman Smith/Kansas Reflector
TOPEKA — State and federal Republican lawmakers from Kansas reinforced opposition to government-issued COVID-19 vaccination mandates in the wake of President Joe Biden’s plan to confront a surge in coronavirus illness and death by increasing pressure on millions of people to get shots.
Biden said the U.S. Department of Labor would issue an emergency rule requiring all businesses with more than 100 employees to compel their workers to be fully vaccinated or test negative at least once a week. That edict would apply to about 80 million workers.
In addition, the Democratic president said Thursday he would issue an executive order requiring all executive branch employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated. Nearly 300,000 educators at federally run school programs must be vaccinated. He also intends to broaden a vaccination requirement for health care workers treating patients on Medicaid and Medicare in nursing homes, hospitals and at-home care settings.
Republican U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, who has been vaccinated, said there was no doubt that vaccines provided the best opportunity for the United States to end the pandemic and that he would continue to urge Kansans to get vaccinated. But he also said that vaccine mandates issued by government officials went too far.
“These decisions should be left to each individual, and that decision should be guided by conversations with trusted doctors and not dictated by bureaucrats in Washington, D.C.,” Moran said. “Furthermore, this government overreach comes at the expense of small business owners who are trying to strike a balance between keeping their businesses safe and open and respecting their employees’ personal health decisions.”
Moran also said that Biden’s decision could deepen public division about vaccines, and that he expected some employees would drop out of the workforce in protest.
U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a physician who has been vaccinated, said Biden’s directives were likely to be struck down by the courts. He claimed that Biden’s response to the surge in infections, hospitalizations and fatalities exacerbated by the Delta variant of the virus was a “terrifying glimpse of the new marxist Dem Party.”
“POTUS’ vaccination decree is an all-out assault on private business, our civil liberties and our entire constitutional system of limited government,” Marshall said.
Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman Jr., an Olathe Republican who contracted COVID-19 in 2020, joined two other members of House GOP leadership to criticize Biden’s plan. They said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican candidate for governor, would take action to block the president’s “egregious abuse of power” and shield Kansans from “this type of executive overreach … becoming the new normal.”
Schmidt, who has been vaccinated and endorsed it as a preventative measure against the coronavirus, said Biden didn’t have authority to decree a national vaccine mandate or to “punish private businesses that refuse to discriminate against employees based on their health status.”
“If the president’s overreaching rhetoric becomes federal action, then rest assured we will vigorously challenge it,” Schmidt said.
Meanwhile, U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, the 4th District congressman from Wichita, said Biden’s vaccine mandate was an example of “bully tactics.” In the past, Estes has declined to reveal his vaccination status.
“Congress and the Supreme Court must take immediate action to make clear that this mandate will not stand. Individuals and parents should make the decisions regarding the medicines they receive. President Biden has willfully overstepped his authority,” Estes said.
— Tim Carpenter reports for Kansas Reflector.