- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 17, 2022

House Republicans are urging President Biden to remove COVID-19 vaccine requirements for Canadian truck drivers entering the U.S. as Freedom Convoy protests continue in Ottawa.

In a letter to Mr. Biden led by Rep. Matthew M. Rosendale of Montana and signed by 63 Republicans on Thursday, the lawmakers said the mandate poses “disastrous consequences for American commerce.”

“We are deeply concerned by the recent implementation of COVID-19 vaccination requirements for essential travelers to the United States and Canada despite widespread opposition and serious concerns over the mandate’s effect on our nation’s supply chain,” the lawmakers wrote.

Last month, the administration began requiring non-U.S. individuals seeking to cross the U.S. border with Canada and Mexico to show proof of vaccination. The requirement applies to both essential and nonessential travel.

Department of Homeland Security Secretary Alejandro Mayorkas said the updated requirements “reflect the Biden-Harris administration’s commitment to protecting public health while safely facilitating the cross-border trade and travel that is critical to our economy.”

But the lawmakers said the requirement has only weakened an already vulnerable supply chain as the U.S. works to bounce back from the pandemic.

“The decision by your administration and the Canadian government is not only impacting truck drivers, but it also hurts American agriculture and countless industries across our nation,” the lawmakers wrote. “Many farmers and ranchers rely on Canada for agricultural inputs and other products.”

According to estimates from the American Trucking Association, big rigs moved 70.9% of the “value of surface trade between the U.S. and Canada” in 2020. In total, trucks entering the U.S. from both Canada and Mexico moved $695 billion worth of goods.

The administration has scrambled to mend the weakened supply chain battered by months of delays and backups. Last summer, the administration stood up a task force aimed at shoring up the flow of goods.

But the lawmakers said Thursday that the decision to require proof of vaccine for truckers was shortsighted, and ignored input from industry experts. 

“Instead of consulting with industry professionals to repair our collapsing supply chains, your administration is instead burdening an already depleted trucking workforce and causing irreparable harm to our economy at a time when we can least afford it,” the lawmakers wrote.

The mandates have come into sharp focus as a group of truckers known as the “Freedom Convoy” converged on Canada’s capital city last month in protest of the vaccine mandates at the border. The demonstration spread throughout the country as a show of resistance against COVID-19-related mandates.

Mr. Biden urged Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau last week to use federal powers to quell protests after demonstrations at U.S.-Canada border crossings began impacting the flow of goods across the border.

Mr. Trudeau invoked Canada’s Emergencies Act earlier this week, which gives the government broad authority to crack down on protesters.

Late last week, police began clearing a blockade at the Ambassador Bridge, a key border crossing with Michigan, that had forced U.S. auto manufacturers to cut production due to parts shortages.

Earlier this week, authorities began clearing the Coutts, Alberta, border crossing into Montana.

On Wednesday, police began warning truckers in Ottawa to immediately depart or face arrest.

Harold Jonker, one of the organizers behind the demonstration in Ottawa, scoffed at the pamphlets and said Thursday that demonstrators plan to remain in the capital city.

With no clear end to the protests in sight and with a supply chain still in recovery, the lawmakers said they fear the mandates will only cause further economic harm.

“We strongly urge you to work with the Canadian government to lift these mandates before the American public suffers for it,” the lawmakers wrote. 

For more information, visit The Washington Times COVID-19 resource page.

• Joseph Clark can be reached at jclark@washingtontimes.com.

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