The Oklahoman

Lankford fails to rescind COVID vaccine mandates

- Chris Casteel

Oklahoma Sen. James Lankford, arguing that thousands of workers soon might lose their jobs, made a failed attempt Wednesday to force a vote on rescinding President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates that cover the federal workforce and government contractor­s.

Lankford said Biden’s executive orders requiring COVID-19 vaccinatio­ns for the workers had created “six weeks of chaos and unanswered questions” and that people who had been promised medical and religious exemptions were not receiving them.

“This federal government is about to fire thousands of federal employees because they did not bend to their will,” said Lankford, a Republican.

Lankford sought to force a vote on his bill to rescind Biden’s orders covering federal workers and contractor­s. His motion, which required unanimous support, was blocked by Michigan Sen. Gary Peters.

Peters, a Democrat, said Lankford’s bill would “roll back policies put in place to make sure federal workers and federal contractor­s who are paid with federal taxpayer dollars are vaccinated against COVID-19. These executive orders protect not just the federal workforce all across our country but they help protect their families and their communitie­s.”

Lankford’s move came a day after Sen. Jim Inhofe, the top Republican on the Senate Armed Services Committee, called on Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to halt the vaccine mandate for military personnel.

“At a time when our adversarie­s continue to increase their quantitati­ve and qualitativ­e advantage against our forces, we should seek to ensure that no policy, even unintentio­nally, hinders military readiness,” Inhofe told Austin.

“Most troublesom­e is the lack of clarity and consistenc­y among the services as they look to implement the administra­tion’s hasty vaccinatio­n mandate.”

Active duty personnel are required to be vaccinated before the end of the year.

Austin issued a memo in August saying “missioncri­tical inoculatio­n is almost as old as the U.S. military itself.”

He said, “Our administra­tion of safe, effective COVID-19 vaccines has produced admirable results to date, and I know the Department of Defense will come together to finish the job, with urgency, profession­alism, and compassion.”

Lankford said many federal workers in Oklahoma had told him they would likely lose their jobs over the mandates, including half the workers in an eight-person Social Security office.

Many workers who risked their health to work through the pandemic last year, before vaccinatio­ns were available, were now threatened with losing their jobs, he said.

Peters argued that higher rates of vaccinatio­n were necessary to get the pandemic under control and that Lankford’s proposal would move the nation in the wrong direction.

“The politiciza­tion of safe, effective health measures is making it harder to end this horrible pandemic,” he said.

 ?? PROVIDED PHOTOS ?? Oklahoma’s U.S. Sens. James Lankford (left) and Jim Inhofe
PROVIDED PHOTOS Oklahoma’s U.S. Sens. James Lankford (left) and Jim Inhofe

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