Sen. Bill Hagerty is calling for Congress to decide the fate of President Biden’s vaccine mandates, which would affect more than 80 million Americans.
Mr. Hagerty, a Tennessee Republican, made the argument in a letter to the White House and Labor Secretary Marty Walsh on Monday. In the letter, Mr. Hagerty asserted that the administration must submit the new regulation, which forces companies with more than 100 employees to require vaccination, to Congress for review.
“Plainly, a binding order … imposing new requirements impacting more than 80 million Americans and carrying the threat of civil and criminal penalties is a rule for [Congressional review] purposes,” Mr. Hagerty wrote in the letter, a copy of which was obtained by The Washington Times.
In stressing the point, Mr. Hagerty invoked the Congressional Review Act, an oversight tool that allows lawmakers to overturn major federal regulations. Under the Act, federal agencies and departments are required to submit new regulations to Congress and provide a justification for the new rules.
Lawmakers then have 60 days to weigh the matter. If they find the agency has overstepped, each chamber of Congress can pass a resolution of disapproval. Such a resolution can be introduced by any single member of either chamber.
A resolution of disapproval needs only a simple majority to pass in either chamber.
If successful, the new regulation is barred from being implemented by the federal government unless Congress passes legislation approving such a crouse. If the joint resolution is brought to a vote and fails, then the rule becomes effective immediately.
More importantly, as Mr. Hagerty notes, once a resolution is filed in the Senate, it can be discharged from a committee by a petition from 30 senators. Once out of committee the resolution only needs a simple majority to receive a full floor vote.
Given that the Senate is currently split 50-50 between Democrats and Republicans, the likelihood of such an event is particularly high.
However, getting the new regulations into Congress for review faces big hurdles given Democrats’ control of both chambers.
Mr. Hagerty said his letter is meant to prod the White House and Labor Department into sending the rule to Congress so the process can kick start. He added that he intended to bring to light the drastic impact the new mandate could potentially have on the U.S. economy and its citizens.
“Not only is this an invasion of the doctor-patient relationship, and an attempt to distract from President Biden‘s botched withdrawal from Afghanistan, but having traveled the state over the last month, our businesses, particularly small ones, cannot find enough employees to hire,” Mr. Hagerty said. “The last thing they need is more draconian, one-size-fits-all, federal regulations that will make it even harder to hire and retain employees.”
Last week, the White House announced the new vaccine mandate as part of a six-step plan to combat the coronavirus, which is killing 1,500 Americans per day. The new regulations demand that private companies with more than 100 employees require workers to either be vaccinated or produce a negative COVID test weekly.
“What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see?” Mr. Biden said. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin.”
The White House plans to administer the mandate through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which has purviews over workplace health and safety. To ensure compliance, the administration plans to heavily penalize companies and workplaces found in violation.
“If a workplace refuses to follow the standard, the OSHA fines can be quite significant. Enforcement actions include fines up to $13,600 per violation,” said Jeff Zients, the White House‘s COVID-19 response coordinator.
Republicans say the fines are only likely to result in workers losing their jobs.
“This is not something that the government should mandate, and somebody shouldn’t have to make the choice between keeping their job and getting a jab in the arm,” said GOP Gov. Pete Ricketts of Nebraska.