Mitch McConnell slams Joe Biden’s private sector vax mandate

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Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the Biden administration’s “illegal” vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers on the Senate floor Wednesday as Republicans prepared to force a vote on a resolution to overturn the directive.

In his remarks, McConnell (R-Ky.) praised COVID-19 vaccines as “modern medical miracles” and noted that he had received a booster shot.

“I’ve encouraged Kentuckians and all Americans to take full advantage,” he said. “I’ve recorded public service announcements, I am a survivor of childhood polio, I’ve watched vaccines obliterate polio in our country in my entire lifetime. Trust me, there is no bigger proponent of vaccination than I am.

“But here’s the thing,” McConnell continued. “The United States of America is a free country. The federal government, elites in Washington, cannot micromanage citizens’ personal choices without a legitimate basis in law and the Constitution. And that goes double for presidents going far beyond the bounds of their office and their authority.” 

Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell
Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell slammed the Biden administration’s vax-or-test mandate for private employers in a speech on the Senate floor.
Michael Reynolds/EPA

McConnell went on to describe the mandate — which applied to companies with 100 or more employees and was due to go into effect in early January but has been halted by multiple court rulings — as “blatant overreach.”

“Washington Democrats have lashed themselves to a mast that is very simple: Unvaccinated people should be fired,” he said. “That’s what they want? They don’t trust individuals, families, doctors, employers, and customers to sort things out for themselves?

“They want every worker at a medium-sized business and up to either get the shot or get fired by President Biden. And buried in the illegal mandate is a call to explore whether it should expand to all businesses. This is not how things work in our country, period.”

Man walking by vaccine site
Sen. Mitch McConnell read letters from constituents saying they’ve been threatened with firings if they do not get vaccinated.
Justin Lane/EPA

Later in his remarks, McConnell read two messages from constituents who reported that they or their spouse had been told to get vaccinated or lose their job. A third message read by the minority leader came from an employer who asked: “My firm of 103 employees will either lose about 25 to the mandate or lay off four to get to 99. Which one should we do?”

McConnell reiterated that he encouraged everyone to get the vaccine, “but for the purposes of this conversation, that really isn’t the point. You better believe I’m going to stand up and fight for their freedom.”

The Senate was expected to vote Wednesday evening on a resolution of disapproval of the vaccine rule under the Congressional Review Act. At least two Democratic senators — Joe Manchin of West Virginia and Jon Tester of Montana — have said they would join all 50 Republicans in supporting the resolution, which is likely to die in the Democrat-controlled House.

Senators Joe Manchin and Jon Tester
Sens. Joe Manchin and Jon Tester said they will join Republicans in a vote on a resolution to overturn President Biden’s planned mandate.
Bloomberg via Getty Images

If both houses of Congress approve the resolution — or override a presidential veto — the vaccine mandate, which is being administered by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would be scrapped.

At the White House Tuesday, press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden would veto the resolution of disapproval if it came to his desk.

President Joe Biden
President Biden would veto a resolution to overturn his private-sector mandates, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.
Susan Walsh/AP

“We certainly hope the Senate — Congress — will stand up to the anti-vaccine and testing crowd, and we’re going to continue to work to implement these,” she said, later adding: “We’ve got a new variant, and cases are rising. The president has been clear we’ll use every tool to protect the American people, and we hope others will join us in that effort.”

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