Texas order reflects growing GOP anger on shot mandates
SALT LAKE CITY — With the governor of Texas leading the charge, conservative Republicans in several states are moving to block or undercut President Joe Biden’s COVID19 vaccine mandates for private employers before the regulations are even issued.
The growing battle over what some see as overreach by the federal government is firing up a segment of the Republican Party base, even though many large employers have already decided on their own to require their workers to get the shot.
The dust-up will almost certainly end up in court since GOP attorneys general in nearly half of the states have vowed to sue once the rule is unveiled.
The courts have long upheld vaccine mandates, and the Constitution gives the federal government the upper hand over the states, but with the details still unannounced and more conservative judges on the bench, the outcome isn’t entirely clear.
On Monday, Texas Gov. Greg Abbott issued an executive order barring private companies or any other entity from requiring vaccines. It was perhaps the most direct challenge yet to Biden’s announcement a month ago that workers at private companies with more than 100 employees would have to get either vaccinated or tested weekly for the coronavirus.
“No entity in Texas can compel receipt of a COVID19 vaccine by any individual ... who objects to such vaccination,” Abbott wrote in his order.
White House officials brushed off Abbott’s order, saying the question of whether state law could supersede federal was settled during the Civil War. They said the Biden administration will push through the opposition and put into effect the president’s package of mandates, which could affect up to 100 million Americans in all.
Several large companies in Texas have already implemented their own vaccine mandates, and two Texas-based airlines, Southwest and American, indicated Tuesday they would follow the order of the Biden administration, saying federal action supersedes any state mandate or law.
In Utah, lawmakers have not taken action, but over 600 people packed a legislative hearing room last week.
Rob Moore, CEO of Salt Lake City-based Big-D Construction, said he supports vaccines but has questions about the mandate rollout. He already has a worker shortage on his job sites, and he said employee surveys tell him that nearly 20% of his workers don’t want to get inoculated, so they would need to be tested weekly.
“That’s heavy on our mind right now. I don’t know if the federal government has thought through that all that well. The cost is going to be enormous,” he said.
In other sectors, vaccine requirements have gone smoothly. In Utah, the NBA’s Jazz is making its employees get vaccinated. It is also requiring fans at games to show proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test.