The most unexpected thing I’ve seen in politics was the host of “The Apprentice” getting elected president.
But having the guy who’s led NIAID for decades become one of the least popular public officials in the United States among Republicans is a close second.
Whatever his approval rating was yesterday among GOPers, it’s a few points lower today after he said this:
Dr. Fauci on President Biden's announced rule requiring vaccines or weekly testing: "I think the president is being somewhat moderate in his demand, if you want to call it that." https://t.co/xd9O77Q30q pic.twitter.com/L5Nb8LhxEV
— The Hill (@thehill) September 10, 2021
I don’t think Biden included the option about getting tested regularly because he wanted to be “moderate.” He did it because it might help his policy stand up in court. One of the things SCOTUS will be looking at is whether the new vaccine mandate is truly “necessary,” per the statutory language, to protect employees from a “grave danger” presented by toxic substances. A pure mandate could have been challenged on those grounds: Why is it necessary that all employees be vaccinated? If the point is to prevent outbreaks in the workplace, testing employees regularly to intercept the infected before they come to work could achieve the same ends. (Not really, but sort of.)
So Biden and his lawyers adapted. You can get vaxxed *or* you can submit to an annoying weekly or twice-weekly testing regimen. Maybe that’ll save the new regulation, although with a 6-3 conservative Court I wouldn’t bet on it.
In an appearance on CNN with Chris Cuomo on Wednesday the director of the US National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Diseases was quizzed as to why the US government is not federally mandating coronavirus passports across the US.
“It’s a complex reason,” Dr Fauci said, before adding that in requiring a passport “you’re going to be discriminating against people and putting people at a disadvantage of essentially forcing them in many respects to get vaccinated.”
Four months later, “discriminating against people” is suddenly okay. The RNC went back further, to July 2020, and dug up this clip of Fauci dismissing federal vaccination mandates because they would “encroach on a person’s freedom”:
I’m guessing Fauci would say: Delta happened. The variant is so insanely contagious that cases in the U.S. have zoomed up to 150,000 per day again, a mark we hadn’t touched since the winter wave in January. Before Delta, Fauci probably thought that we’d never again experience a truly nasty wave with hundreds of Americans dying each day once the vaccines became widely available. Then he came to realize (a) we were going to end up topping out at a meager 55 percent or so of the total population getting vaccinated willingly and (b) the variant had pushed the threshold needed for herd immunity up above 90 percent. We’re now averaging 1,500 daily deaths again. He felt desperate.
So he shifted to a “by any means necessary” stance on getting the population immunized.
CNN reports today on a dirty little secret among corporate America: They’re glad that Biden and Fauci brought down the hammer with yesterday’s mandate. Some companies wanted to impose such a mandate themselves but lacked the nerve to do so, knowing that the anti-mandate and anti-vax segments of the consumer base are vocal and motivated. Biden gave them the political cover to enact the policy they wanted to enact without having to take the blame for it. More importantly, he solved their collective action problem. Previously, if they had imposed a mandate, they risked losing workers to rivals that didn’t require staff to get vaccinated. Now that all companies have to require it as a matter of federal law, there’s nowhere for disgruntled workers to go. (Unless they want to work for a small business instead.)
Corporate America welcomed the news — most notably the Business Roundtable, an influential group of huge American companies led by Joshua Bolten, former chief of staff to President George W. Bush.
“Business Roundtable welcomes the Biden Administration’s continued vigilance in the fight against Covid,” Bolten said in a statement. “America’s business leaders know how critical vaccination and testing are in defeating the pandemic.”…
“Getting all eligible Americans vaccinated will, first and foremost, reduce hospitalizations and save lives,” said National Association of Manufacturers CEO Jay Timmons in a statement. “But it is also an economic imperative in that our recovery and quality of life depend on our ability to end this pandemic.”
Even the Chamber of Commerce, a frequent foe of Democrats like Biden, said it would work to encourage its members to get on board with the new rule “to ensure that employers have the resources, guidance, and flexibility necessary to ensure the safety of their employees and customers and comply with public health requirements.”
I speculated in my last post that Biden’s mandate will never take effect. But maybe it doesn’t need to. Maybe, having provided political cover to major corporations to enact their own mandates, it’s academic whether the mandate is ultimately upheld in court. Companies can twist employees’ arms while the litigation plays out; then, even if Biden’s policy ends up being tossed, the labor force may have acclimated itself to the idea of employer mandates enough that those companies can get away with keeping their policy in place.
Exit quotation from a labor law professor at Cornell: “The business community is really going to appreciate this.”