Republican governors and other lawmakers blasted President Biden Thursday after he announced a nationwide vaccinate-or-test requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees — an edict that could affect two-thirds of American workers.
In remarks from the White House, the president said that the Labor Department will force those businesses to require staffers to get inoculated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly for the disease. Businesses that don’t follow the new rule will be subject to hefty fines.
“This is not about freedom, or personal choice,” Biden said at one point. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love … We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part, who want to get back to life as normal.”
South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem fired the first rhetorical shot on Twitter, writing before Biden spoke that: “South Dakota will stand up to defend freedom. @JoeBiden see you in court.”
“This is not a power that is delegated to the federal government,” Noem told Fox News’ “Hannity” Thursday night. “This is a power for states to decide. In South Dakota, we’re going to be free and we’re going to make sure that we don’t overstep our authority. So we will take action. My legal team is already working, and we will defend and protect our people from this unlawful mandate.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp also chimed in on social media, writing that “I will pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration.”
In Arizona, Gov. Doug Ducey issued a statement decrying what he called Biden’s “dictatorial approach” as “wrong” and “un-American.”
“COVID-19 is a contagious disease, it is still with us and it will be for the foreseeable future,” Ducey wrote. “President Biden’s solution is hammering down on private businesses and individual freedoms in an unprecedented and dangerous way … How many workers will be displaced? How many kids kept out of classrooms? How many businesses fined?”
“These mandates are outrageous,” Ducey concluded. “They will never stand up in court. We must and will push back.”
Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Texas) tweeted late Thursday that the requirement announced by Biden “completely ignores the science and is an attack on Americans’ right to privacy.
“The feds have NO AUTHORITY to force employers make their employees get vaccinated,” Cruz insisted.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the new rule “an assault on private businesses” and vowed that the state was “already working to halt this power grab.”
Christina Pushaw, a spokeswoman for Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis, tweeted that Biden’s “not about freedom” remark was possibly “the most disturbing thing I’ve ever heard a politician say, and I worked in Eastern European politics for years.”
At another point in his speech, Biden warned that if Republican governors who have opposed vaccine and mask mandates “won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my powers as president to get them out of the way.”
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts called the president’s words “absolutely outrageous” Thursday night.
“The president’s forgotten we live in America,” Ricketts told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle”. “He thinks we live in the Soviet Union. And the hypocrisy of this is just unbelievable. We have weekly phone calls with the governors and the White House staff. The president has never once been on any of those, and yet he’s got the gall to tell us that we’re not fighting the pandemic? … I can tell you, Nebraska will push back, fight back with any tool we can find against this huge, stunning overreach of federal power.”
Mississippi Gov. Tate Reeves, appearing on the same program, accused Biden of “picking a real fight with hard-working Americans, 80 million Americans.
“This president is saying to them, ‘Look, you can either get vaccinated or I, as one individual, is going to threaten your ability to feed your family,’” Reeves said. “And that’s just wrong. That is just wrong.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) echoed that theme on Twitter, writing: “President Biden has made small business an enemy of his administration. Forcing main street to vax or pay a fine will not only crush an economy he’s put on life support—it’s flat-out un-American.
“To Joe Biden, force is more important than freedom,” McCarthy added. “Americans won’t stand for it.”
Sen. Ben Sasse (R-Neb.) accused Biden of being “so desperate to distract from his shameful, incompetent Afghanistan exit that he is saying crazy things and pushing constitutionally flawed executive orders.
“This is a cynical attempt to pick a fight and distract from the President’s morally disgraceful decision to leave Americans behind Taliban lines on the 20th anniversary of 9/11,” Sasse added. “This isn’t how you beat COVID, but it is how you run a distraction campaign — it’s gross and the American people shouldn’t fall for it.”
According to CDC data, 75.3 percent of US adults have had at least one coronavirus vaccine shot. But vaccination rates vary among states and the national infection rate is as high as it was in late January when few Americans were vaccinated.
Meanwhile, a Post analysis of Centers for Disease Control and Prevention data found the vast majority of Americans who are getting serious cases of COVID-19 or dying are unvaccinated.