Kansas Republicans in Congress rip vaccination order applied to workers of private businesses

OSHA sets Jan. 4 vaccination deadline for businesses with more than 100 workers

By: - November 5, 2021 9:15 am
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and the four other Kansas Republicans in Congress registered opposition to federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates applicable to businesses with more than 100 employees. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran and the four other Kansas Republicans in Congress registered opposition to federal COVID-19 vaccination mandates applicable to businesses with more than 100 employees. (Screen capture/Kansas Reflector)

TOPEKA — Kansas Republicans serving in Congress continued to raise objections Friday to the COVID-19 vaccination mandate rolled out by President Joe Biden applicable nationwide to private businesses with at least 100 employees.

The five GOP members in the delegation raised constitutional criticisms about requiring millions of people to be vaccinated during the pandemic and argued decisions about medical care ought to be left to individuals. They’ve also expressed displeasure with Biden’s vaccination order aimed at employees and contractors of the federal government.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, of Manhattan, joined dozens of senators in a procedural effort to nullify Biden’s vaccine mandate for private employees under a process allowing Congress to challenge executive branch regulations.

“The decision to get vaccinated should be left to each individual in consultation with doctors they trust,” Moran said. “I ask the president to eliminate this mandate and let the decisions be made back home, between employee and employer.”

Under the rule issued Thursday by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an estimated 84 million American people working at companies with at least 100 employees must be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or be tested for COVID-19 on a weekly basis.

A separate rule released from the U.S. Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services mandated health care workers to be vaccinated by Jan. 4, but those 17 million people at health facilities receiving federal funding from Medicaid or Medicare won’t have the option of weekly testing.

“Together, these rules will cover about 100 million Americans — two-thirds of all workers in America,” Biden said in a statement from the White House. “As we’ve seen with businesses large and small across all sectors of our economy, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to get vaccinated. There have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements. Despite what some predicted and falsely assert, vaccination requirements have broad public support.”

Biden ordered federal government employees to be vaccinated by Nov. 22 and people working at companies or institutions contracting with the federal government have until Jan. 4 to complete the vaccination process.

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a physician from Great Bend, said extending vaccination mandates to U.S. employers with greater than 100 people on the payroll would disrupt the economy by driving people from jobs, hobbling the supply chain and adding to inflationary pressures.

Setting the deadline after the holiday season indicates Biden understands the vaccination order on big businesses will cause economic challenges, Marshall said.

“This federal vaccine mandate is unconstitutional and I can’t think of a worse decision for Joe Biden to make right now,” he said.

U.S. Rep. Ron Estes, who serves the 4th District that includes Wichita, said the president was improperly forcing people to make choices between getting the vaccination and staying in the workforce and adhering to personal convictions and losing a job.

“This mandate does not instill confidence in the vaccine, which millions of Americans have freely chosen to take and experience its benefits, but instead it pushes the federal government deeper into the lives of our families and businesses. Regardless of one’s views on the effectiveness of the vaccine, it’s clear this mandate is an overreach of the federal government and should not be implemented,” Estes said.

U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, of the 2nd District that includes Topeka, said the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates were an “authoritarian power grab” and OSHA didn’t possess authority to compel Americans to be vaccinated or to undergo testing. In a similar vein, U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann of western Kansas’ 1st District said the vaccination order for businesses was a “gross misuse” of executive order privilege.

U.S. Rep. Sharice Davids, a Democrat serving the 3rd District of Johnson and Wyandotte counties, has been a consistent advocate for voluntary vaccinations along with several GOP members of the Kansas delegation to Washington, D.C.

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Tim Carpenter
Tim Carpenter

Tim Carpenter has reported on Kansas for 35 years. He covered the Capitol for 16 years at the Topeka Capital-Journal and previously worked for the Lawrence Journal-World and United Press International. He has been recognized for investigative reporting on Kansas government and politics. He won the Kansas Press Association's Victor Murdock Award six times. The William Allen White Foundation honored him four times with its Burton Marvin News Enterprise Award. The Kansas City Press Club twice presented him its Journalist of the Year Award and more recently its Lifetime Achievement Award. He earned an agriculture degree at Kansas State University and grew up on a small dairy and beef cattle farm in Missouri. He is an amateur woodworker and drives Studebaker cars.