News Briefs

Kansas Republicans raise objections to Biden’s expansive vaccine mandate

By: - September 10, 2021 10:43 am
U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran voted for the $40 billion supplemental military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine, while U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall was among 11 senators to vote against the legislation. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from C-SPAN channel video)

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran voted for the $40 billion supplemental military and humanitarian aid package for Ukraine, while U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall was among 11 senators to vote against the legislation. (Kansas Reflector screen capture from C-SPAN channel video)

TOPEKA — State and federal Republican lawmakers from Kansas reinforced opposition to government-issued COVID-19 vaccination mandates in 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.

U.S. Sen. Jerry Moran, a COVID-19 vaccinated Republican, said there was no doubt vaccines produced through the ingenuity of medical laboratories delivered the best opportunity for the United States to help draw the pandemic to a close.

He said he would continue to urge Kansans to be vaccinated, but mandates issued by government officials for vaccinations 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.”

He said Biden risked deepening public division regarding vaccines. He expects some employees to drop out of the workforce in protest.

A spokesperson for Democratic Gov. Laura Kelly said the governor’s office was awaiting on additional guidance on what Biden’s plan meant for Kansans before commenting in detail. Kelly, who was vaccinated in January, has been among the state’s most vocal advocates of COVID-19 vaccination.

“In the meantime,” said spokesperson Sam Coleman, “Kansas families can rest assured that the governor will continue to make any decisions relating to COVID-19  based on science, not politics.”

U.S. Sen. Roger Marshall, a physician who has been vaccinated for COVID-19, said Biden’s directives were likely to be struck down by the courts. He claimed 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 Senate President Ty Masterson and Kansas House Speaker Ron Ryckman, who both contracted COVID-19 in 2020, joined with their GOP leadership colleagues in the Legislature to criticize Biden’s plan.

“Tyranny through executive order is not how we govern in a free society,” Masterson said.

Ryckman said Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, a Republican candidate for governor, should take action to block the president’s “egregious abuse of power” and shield Kansans from “this type of executive overreach from 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 deployed “bully tactics” in a bid to turn the tide against COVID-19. In the past, the GOP lawmaker 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.

U.S. Rep. Jake LaTurner, a Republican who contracted COVID-19 in January, said Biden’s vaccination mandate was “dictatorial behavior” harmful to businesses struggling to navigate with a labor shortage. The 2nd District congressman also said rural Kansas hospitals were stretched thin and couldn’t afford to lose employees opposed to the vaccine.

Biden’s mandate conflicts with well-established ideas of religious freedom and personal liberty, said U.S. Rep. Tracey Mann, who represents the rural 1st District and has been vaccinated.

“It fails to include exemptions for those who would decline vaccination based on religious or medical concerns, or even for those willing to produce negative COVID-19 tests in lieu of getting vaccinated,” he said.

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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.