GOP seeks Biden referendum over vaccine mandates

Congressional Republicans are blasting President Biden’s latest steps to require more people to get vaccinated against COVID-19 as “un-American” and vowing to fight back against them. 

Republicans will try to push back on vaccine mandates from multiple angles through legislation they’ve introduced to ban such requirements and legal actions as they try to make the issue a referendum of Biden’s job performance ahead of the midterm elections next year. 

But polling indicates that a majority of the public is on Biden’s side, with most people backing vaccine requirements for workplaces, airplanes, indoor dining at restaurants and attending events with large crowds. 

While Republicans’ opposition to vaccine requirements may reflect the views of their party’s base, it risks appearing to prioritize the rights of vaccine holdouts who at this point represent a minority of the American population. 

At this point, a supermajority of U.S. adults have taken steps to get inoculated against COVID-19. About 75 percent of adults have received at least one dose and 64 percent are fully vaccinated, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. 

Republicans are nevertheless leaning into the argument that people shouldn’t be coerced into getting vaccinated.

“To Joe Biden, force is more important than freedom. Americans won’t stand for it,” said House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.). 

One House Republican suggested the expanded vaccine requirements could lead to a “revolt,” while J.D. Vance, a Republican running for a Senate seat in Ohio, called for “mass civil disobedience” to “save us from Joe Biden’s naked authoritarianism.”

“Are you people trying to start a full on revolt? Honestly what the hell is wrong with Democrats? Leave people the hell alone. This is insanity,” Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) wrote on Twitter.

Biden announced a requirement that all private employers with 100 employees or more must mandate vaccines or weekly testing, as well as plans to require vaccines for most federal workers and contractors. The president also said he would require employers to provide paid time off to get the vaccine and encouraged some large venues to require proof of vaccination or testing for entry.

House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) warned against a “slippery slope” in response to Biden’s announcement and said “it’s all about government control.”

“Liberals don’t care about the freedoms this country was founded on. Just their own power. Biden admitted that: ‘This is not about freedom or personal choice.’ Wake up America. It’s a slippery slope from here,” he said.

The Republican National Committee (RNC) quickly vowed to sue the Biden administration over its COVID-19 vaccine and testing mandate. RNC chairwoman Ronna McDaniel accused Biden of lying, saying he said upon his election that he would not impose vaccine mandates. She said the president failed to shut down the virus and that mandates will shut down small businesses.

“When his decree goes into effect, the RNC will sue the administration to protect Americans and their liberties,” she said.

Several Republican governors have also threatened to take Biden to court over requiring workers to get vaccinated, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem

Biden vowed to use his power as president to get governors who won’t help beat the pandemic “out of the way.” He said on Friday that he is “so disappointed” that some Republican governors “have been so cavalier with the health of these kids,” while visiting a school in Washington, D.C. 

“One of the lessons I hope our students can un-learn is that politics doesn’t have to be this way. Politics doesn’t have to be this way. They’re growing up in an environment where they see it’s like a war, like a bitter feud,” he said.

He pointed to the polling data, arguing that a majority of Americans support mandates. 

A recent Gallup poll found that respondents ranged from 53 to 63 percent in favor of vaccination requirements across five different situations like air travel, dining in a restaurant or going to an office.

Polling from The Associated Press-NORC also found that half of Americans favor vaccine requirements at their workplaces, and that 59 percent back similar mandates for teachers as children return to in-person schooling across the nation. 

Biden placed blame on unvaccinated Americans for prolonging the pandemic that has upended American life for the last year and a half, saying their refusal “has cost all of us” and “our patience is wearing thin.” He also admonished some elected officials for worsening the pandemic by not encouraging vaccines.

Aside from the GOP governors vowing legal action in response to Biden’s latest efforts to enforce vaccinations, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, both Republicans, had also previously enacted measures banning vaccine and mask mandates in their states. 

Some top Republicans have tried to promote vaccines, albeit while stopping short of calling for mandates. Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.), a polio survivor, has filmed a public service announcement encouraging people to get vaccinated against COVID-19. 

But other Republicans continue to spread misinformation about vaccines and the pandemic. Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), who was temporarily suspended from Twitter this summer for violating its COVID-19 misinformation policy, said Thursday that “we should make every effort” so that hydroxychloroquine, ivermectin, and Regeneron’s monoclonal antibody drug are “just as available as vaccines in order to save lives.” 

Health authorities have strongly advised against taking hydroxychloroquine, an anti-malaria drug, or ivermectin, which is used to treat parasitic worms, as measures for COVID-19. 

The attempts by some Republicans to keep spreading misinformation has hardened Democrats’ resolve to lean into a tough stance on enforcing vaccinations as they seek to portray Republicans as catering to a radicalized minority.

“If we lose progress in our fight against this virus and getting Americans back to work there will be no wonder about who is to blame. The American people simply can’t afford to give extremist House Republicans control of Congress,” the Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, the House Democrats’ campaign arm, wrote in a memo.