Vaccination mandates imposed by President Joe Biden are under attack.
The mandates were hailed as a way to help America recover from the Covid pandemic, but Biden now finds himself fighting for them — particularly the one aimed at private businesses — on three fronts: the judicial system, Congress, and the court of public opinion.
The White House claims to be prepared for a fight. A legal team has been put together to fight the battle in court. As bipartisan opposition grows, Biden is prepared to veto any legislation passed by Congress that would erode his mandates. And he will continue to speak to the public about his objectives.
The fight, however, is only going to get tougher, possibly exacerbated by the unknowns created by the omicron variant of the coronavirus and growing discontent within Biden’s own party. Vaccination mandates are “good politics,” according to a Democratic House member. However, the lawmaker expressed regret that “some in the White House want to quietly walk away.”
According to a White House aide and a strategist close to the administration who asked to speak anonymously to detail internal thinking, Biden is betting that the long-term value of defeating the disease — for Americans’ health, the economy, and his own standing — far outweighs short-term political considerations.
Vaccinations, according to the official, are “one of the best weapons we have against the virus,” and the virus’s persistence is fueling inflation and disrupting supply chains. The official called it “very unfortunate” that Republicans are “acting like virus lobbyists” and impeding Biden’s plan to defeat it.
Regardless of recent political and legal challenges, White House officials claim that the mandates are already producing the desired results.
However, if the mandates have already convinced everyone who can be convinced, it’s possible that more Democrats, and even the White House, will conclude that the rules have served their purpose and are no longer useful.
The White House has stated publicly that it will not back down from any challenges.
On Wednesday evening, two Senate Democrats, Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana, voted with Republicans to repeal Biden’s vaccination mandate for private businesses. The bill was approved by a vote of 52-48.
Tester stated that he had repeatedly heard from small businesses “about the negative impact the private business vaccine mandate will have on their bottom lines and our state’s economy,” whereas Manchin argued that the government “should incentivize, not penalize, private employers whose responsibility it is to protect their employees from Covid.”
It’s unclear whether the bill would pass the Democratic-controlled House or even get a vote. However, if it reaches Biden’s desk, he will veto it, according to White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
The White House has also stated that Biden intends to continue with the mandates despite a number of recent court rulings challenging them. Officials have stated that they are confident in their legal ability to carry out the mandates throughout the country.
When asked about the most recent ruling by a federal judge in Georgia prohibiting the administration from enforcing the mandate for federal contractors, Psaki stated that the Justice Department would “vigorously defend” the rule in court.
She argued that the mandates are effective, claiming that 92 percent of federal employees have already been fully vaccinated with the first series of vaccines and that large corporations such as Lockheed Martin have reported a more than 95 percent success rate. Meanwhile, Psaki stated that “the president and the administration will continue to press forward.”
It is unclear how the administration intends to deal with dwindling poll numbers, especially as leaders like Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer, a Democrat, express reservations about broad mandates.
According to Christopher Wilson, a Republican strategist who served as pollster for Virginia Gov.-elect Glenn Youngkin, while polls have generally shown majority support for the mandate, that support is dwindling.
Recent polls found mandate approval ratings dipping, including a recent Wall Street Journal poll that found 50% support. This is a decrease from earlier polls, which showed as much as 58 percent approval this fall.