Area politicians have launched a fight over an impending federal rule that will require large employers to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or testing.
Under an executive order signed by President Joe Biden, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will make a regulation requiring companies employing 100 or more people to mandate vaccines or weekly testing of employees. The rule would impact the majority of St. Joseph’s workforce, according to the Chamber of Commerce.
“I mean, the truth is that this vaccine mandate at the federal level, it’s just not lawful,” said Sen. Josh Hawley, R-Mo., a strong opponent of the rule. “The federal government does not have the ability absent some act of Congress, and even then I’m not sure how Congress could order this either.”
The rule is meant to raise the vaccination rate, which in Buchanan County has lagged well behind regional and national averages. When asked by News-Press NOW if the rule would increase the vaccination rate, Hawley said he was skeptical.
“I think we’re already seeing it’s promoting an immense amount of blowback,” he said. “I think you will have a lot of employers who say, ‘I’m not going to comply with that.’”
While the exact text of the rule hasn’t been released, violation of the regulation would incur a $14,000 fine on businesses. Companies would be required to grant paid time off to receive a shot. They also likely would have to pay the costs of testing employees who aren’t vaccinated at least once a week.
Hawley told News-Press NOW he believes the rule will end up in court. Earlier this week, Arizona’s attorney general sued the federal government in an attempt to stop the rule’s implementation.
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, a Republican, said in a statement that he’ll bring his own suit if the president’s “rhetoric becomes federal action,” according to the Kansas City Star.
In a letter to OSHA, Hawley asked the agency what legal justification it had for the vaccination rule.
Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., demanded Congressional review of the move on Wednesday.
“President Biden’s vaccination decree is an all-out assault on private business, our civil liberties and our entire constitutional system of limited government,” Marshall said. “As a former physician who believes the vaccine has saved countless lives, I stand by my belief that receiving the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal choice that should be made following a conversation with one’s doctor instead of being administered across the board by government decree.”
For his part, Biden has blamed the continuing pandemic on the unvaccinated, and he sees the rule as a chance to get more shots in arms.
“We’ve been patient. But our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” Biden said.
The Associated Press
contributed to this report.