On Thursday, President Biden unveiled a sweeping new set of Covid vaccination mandates for public and private employees. By Friday, the Republican backlash had already begun.
“Are you people trying to start a full on revolt?” Texas congressman Dan Crenshaw tweeted.
“Those businesses should openly rebel against any such rule,” Rep Chip Roy wrote.
“South Dakota will stand up to defend freedom,” warned Governor Kristi Noem. “@JoeBiden see you in court.”
Under the president’s plan, every employer with at least 100 employees must require those workers either to get vaccinated or to undergo weekly Covid testing. In a national address on Thursday, Mr Biden argued the mandates are necessary because vaccine refusers are slowing the end of the virus – and blocking overfilled hospitals from treating anything else.
“My message to unvaccinated Americans is this: What more is there to wait for?” the president told the nation. “We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us.”
Republican politicians quickly lashed out, decrying the plan as an attack on personal freedom and private enterprise. Even former vice president Mike Pence, who had not given a TV interview in almost a year, jumped into the fray.
“I have to tell you, the president’s speech yesterday was unlike anything I had ever heard from an American president,” Mr Pence told Fox News. “I mean, to have the president of the United States say that he has been patient but his patience is wearing thin – that’s not how the American people expect to be spoken to by our elected leaders.”
House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy also weighed in.
“President Biden has made small business an enemy of his administration,” the Republican leader said. “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.”
Florida senator Rick Scott went further, urging businesses to rebel against the mandates.
“This is what you get electing people who support socialism,” Mr Scott said in an extended Twitter rant. “They want government controlling, compelling & mandating what people do.”
“I encourage America’s job creators – large and small – to challenge this insane ‘order,’” he added. “We cannot allow this unhinged administration to do even more irreparable harm to American workers, businesses and our economy.”
The Covid-19 pandemic has so far claimed over 656,000 American lives, and new deaths per day have been rising in recent weeks. Only 53 per cent of the country is fully vaccinated, and vaccination rates are especially low in conservative states.
On Twitter, Mr Biden’s plan did have some supporters as well as critics.
“Biden’s vaccine mandate is terrific public policy; it is, more or less literally, what the doctor ordered,” liberal columnist Paul Krugman wrote. “Is it good politics? We don’t know.”
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