Biden's vaccine rules ignite instant, hot GOP opposition

Photo Date: February 10, 2021 | Credit: DoD / Lisa Ferdinando / CC BY 2.0 | License Link

Republicans are blasting President Joe Biden, threatening lawsuits and going as far as to call for civil disobedience and even his impeachment.

Posted: Sep 10, 2021 4:38 PM

WASHINGTON (AP) — President Joe Biden's aggressive push to require millions of U.S. workers to vaccinate against the coronavirus is running into a wall of resistance from Republicans threatening everything from lawsuits to civil disobedience, plunging the country deeper into culture wars that have festered since the onset of the pandemic.

In South Carolina, Gov. Henry McMaster says he will fight “to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.” South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem, a potential 2024 presidential candidate, says she is preparing a lawsuit. And J.D. Vance, a conservative running for a U.S. Senate seat in Ohio, describes Biden's move as Washington's "attempt to bully and coerce citizens.”

“Do not comply with the mandates," Vance says.

Biden is hardly backing down. In a visit to a school on Friday, he accused the governors of being “cavalier” with the health of American youngsters, and when asked about foes who would file legal challenges, he retorted, “Have at it.”

The opposition follows the new round of rules Biden outlined on Thursday in a new effort to tame the coronavirus by mandating that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. Another 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be vaccinated.

Biden's move has unified Republicans who sometimes have taken different approaches to the pandemic. From state capitals to Congress and the campaign trail, Republicans — even those who support vaccination — are blasting Biden's more forceful approach.

“The vaccine itself is life-saving, but this unconstitutional move is terrifying," tweeted Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves.

More than 208 million Americans have received at least one vaccine dose, but some 80 million remain unvaccinated as the U.S. confronts the highly contagious delta variant. There are now about 300% more new daily COVID-19 infections, about two-and-a-half times the hospitalizations and nearly twice the number of deaths as at the same time last year.

While breakthrough infections do happen among the vaccinated, those cases tend to be far less severe, with the vast majority of deaths and severe illnesses occurring among those who have not yet received the shots.

The pandemic is worsening in many of the states where governors are most loudly protesting the president's actions. South Carolina, for example, is averaging more than 5,000 new cases per day and has the nation’s second-highest infection rate. A hospital system there started canceling elective surgeries this week to free staff to help with a crush of COVID-19 patients.

Overwhelmed hospitals in a section of Idaho have implemented new crisis standards to ration care for patients. More than 50 hospitals across Georgia are turning away ambulances bringing emergency or ICU patients.

The country as a whole is averaging more than 1,500 deaths and 150,000 cases a day.

“I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities,” Biden said during his school visit. “This isn’t a game.”

Republicans and some union officials say the president is overreaching his constitutional authority.

He says he's doing what has to be done. And in his White House speech announcing the new measures, he took a particularly pointed stance, accusing elected officials of "actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19.”

“Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities,” he said.

Biden pointed directly to GOP governors who have blocked measures such as school mask mandates, warning, "If these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my power as president to get them out of the way.”

Court fights are sure to follow.

Vaccine mandates are supported by a small majority of Americans. An August poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research found majorities support requiring health care workers, teachers at K-12 schools and public-facing workers like those in restaurants and stores to be fully vaccinated. Overall, 55% back vaccine mandates for government workers. And about half of working adults favor vaccine mandates at their workplaces.

But the numbers are deeply polarized, with Democrats far more likely to support mandates than Republicans, who have also been less supportive when it comes to getting shots themselves.

While demand for vaccinations has risen over the summer, a persistent number of Americans have told pollsters they have no intention of ever receiving them.

GOP pollster Frank Luntz, who has held focus groups and worked with the Biden administration to try to combat vaccine hesitance, says that, without further measures, Biden is likely to see vaccinations top out at about 75% of the population.

“The only way to exceed that, which he needs to for herd immunity, is to mandate it,” Luntz said. “It will make a lot of people angry and even more resistant, but those who are simply hesitant will act now. He’s done the best he can under the circumstances.”

Still, many Republicans are unmoving and unforgiving, especially those who are running for office.

Mike Gibbons, who is running for the U.S. Senate in Ohio, accused “Joe Biden and his Big Brother administration" of having “crossed into authoritarian territory.”

“The American people have a right to assess the risks and benefits of the vaccine and make the decision on what is best for themselves and their families," he said. “That decision should be made by doctors and the individual, not the government.”

With the midterm elections just over a year away, Drew McKissick, South Carolina’s GOP chairman, says he imagines Democrats in his state being tied to their party’s “radical liberal” policies.

“South Carolinians don’t take kindly to mandates. They never have,” McKissick said Friday, arguing the national political tenor was “going to put (Democrats) more in a corner.”

Republicans in Congress have joined the criticism.

“Are you people trying to start a full-on revolt?” tweeted Texas Rep. Dan Crenshaw. “Honestly what the hell is wrong with Democrats? Leave people the hell alone. This is insanity.”

Crenshaw is vaccinated and has promoted the COVID-19 vaccine’s safety to his constituents. But he said “the right path is built upon explaining, educating, and building trust, including explaining the risks/benefits/pros/cons in an honest way so a person can make their own decision. The Biden Administration has completely failed in that regard.”

Wisconsin Sen. Ron Johnson, who has repeatedly questioned the vaccine, said Biden’s policy is “a level of coercion that I find highly disturbing.”

__ Associated Press writers Meg Kinnard in Houston and Mary Clare Jalonick, Hannah Fingerhut and Zeke Miller in Washington contributed to this report.

Mississippi Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Cases: 479326

Reported Deaths: 9353
CountyCasesDeaths
Harrison32779484
Hinds30924582
DeSoto30319353
Jackson23542341
Rankin21235366
Lee14803219
Madison14120271
Jones13327223
Forrest13078236
Lauderdale11501303
Lowndes10377176
Lamar10163130
Pearl River9008217
Lafayette8193137
Hancock7404111
Oktibbeha6909122
Washington6900150
Monroe6459159
Neshoba6441201
Warren6387163
Pontotoc623093
Panola6203125
Bolivar6072144
Marshall6068121
Union571386
Pike5574135
Alcorn533289
Lincoln5283131
George466072
Scott454796
Leflore4444140
Prentiss443377
Tippah442180
Itawamba441599
Adams4376116
Tate4327101
Simpson4313112
Wayne430766
Copiah429587
Yazoo419686
Covington413292
Sunflower4123104
Marion4073104
Leake395486
Coahoma391098
Newton367274
Grenada3543104
Stone350359
Tishomingo333288
Attala324286
Jasper313162
Winston303091
Clay294173
Chickasaw286265
Clarke279890
Calhoun263940
Holmes261387
Smith248048
Yalobusha219647
Tallahatchie217550
Walthall209958
Greene206845
Lawrence205732
Perry198553
Amite197651
Webster195042
Noxubee177739
Montgomery171654
Jefferson Davis167442
Carroll161437
Tunica150834
Benton141533
Kemper138039
Claiborne126134
Choctaw126026
Humphreys125937
Franklin116328
Quitman103426
Wilkinson101536
Jefferson87333
Sharkey62320
Issaquena1926
Unassigned00

Alabama Coronavirus Cases

Cases: 778549

Reported Deaths: 13665
CountyCasesDeaths
Jefferson1105871747
Mobile704651206
Madison49152610
Baldwin35946479
Shelby35796302
Tuscaloosa33410532
Montgomery32906672
Lee22231216
Calhoun20791397
Morgan19605326
Etowah18837449
Marshall17465272
Houston16452368
St. Clair15233293
Limestone14376182
Cullman14348246
Elmore14241256
Lauderdale13298278
Talladega12699230
DeKalb12036233
Walker10430323
Autauga9568133
Blount9555152
Jackson9235146
Coffee8728169
Colbert8426179
Dale8410170
Escambia6526114
Tallapoosa6501172
Covington6396163
Chilton6293141
Russell598555
Franklin5719100
Chambers5315133
Marion4734115
Dallas4665182
Clarke457076
Pike456294
Geneva4315116
Winston417192
Lawrence4086108
Bibb401680
Barbour341968
Marengo323183
Butler314988
Monroe314652
Pickens300470
Randolph299955
Henry298356
Hale289383
Cherokee284652
Fayette275672
Washington244848
Crenshaw235168
Clay225163
Macon217657
Cleburne217149
Lamar192140
Conecuh179646
Lowndes170158
Coosa166432
Wilcox155736
Bullock147742
Perry136036
Sumter124136
Greene120142
Choctaw72826
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