Two months after basically declaring the battle against COVID-19 was over, President Joe Biden is answering a resurgence of the virus with a vaccine mandate that tramples civil liberties.
Thursday, the president ordered vaccines and testing for employees of private businesses, health care facilities and federal workers and contractors.
Biden’s legal authority to issue such a sweeping order on the private sector, impacting 80 million employees, will be challenged in court, and he’s not likely to win. This seems like a desperate attempt to prove he’s “doing something.”
The law hasn’t stopped the president before, as we saw earlier this summer when his administration chose to extend a ban on evictions, knowing full well it wouldn’t pass constitutional muster (it didn’t, as the U.S. Supreme Court ruled last month).
This time, rather than going through the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Biden is using the U.S. Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration to issue “emergency temporary standards” that sidestep the formal rule-making process and Congress. It’s a rarely used bureaucratic power.
“We were quite shocked to see this taken so far,” says Wendy Block of the Michigan Chamber of Commerce.
No matter how badly Biden wants to vanquish the virus, nothing gives him the right to bulldoze the Constitution and the freedoms of Americans.
Yet the president seems fairly glib about these fundamental rights.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said Thursday, at a news conference during which he refused to answer any questions.
Biden argues he’s doing what he can to keep the public safe. But beyond the questionable legal authority he has to institute such a mandate, the decree itself doesn’t make sense.
The president is requiring all businesses with 100 or more employees to demand their workers are either vaccinated or tested once a week. This could impact as many as 80 million private sector employees. Biden is also extending the mandate to all federal workers and contractors, as well as most health care workers.
The arbitrary nature of the emergency order is troubling. Why limit it to only larger private employers?
Rachel Greszler, a labor policy expert at the Heritage Foundation, says placing this burden on only some employers will further harm the private sector at a time it is already reeling from the pandemic and a host of other government restrictions. Employers are still struggling to find workers, and now employees may choose to quit and move to a job where they don’t face such vaccine requirements.
Greszler also notes it’s unfair to place enforcement on employers, essentially making them the pandemic police.
We’re all ready to move on from COVID-19, but Biden grossly overstepped his authority with this vaccine mandate and the courts should quickly check him.