Blackburn Bill would exempt essential workers from vaccine mandate

(AP Photo/Mark Humphrey)

I wouldn’t get your hopes up for this too much just yet, but it looks as if part of the Senate GOP caucus is taking a direct run at Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate. Not all of it in one chunk, of course. But Marsha Blackburn (R – Tennessee) has introduced the “Keeping Our COVID-19 Heroes Employed Act.” If this were to somehow make it into law (highly doubtful, I’m sad to say), it would prevent essential workers who kept the country going through the COVID pandemic would be exempt from losing their jobs based on their vaccination status. The new bill is already attracting plenty of support, though only from Republicans, but it doesn’t even need to pass to produce the desired effect. This is a move that was designed to spark a debate, not alter the law. (Fox News)

Republican Sen. Marsha Blackburn rolled out a measure Tuesday that would protect essential workers from being fired due to federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates, making them exempt from President Biden’s executive order, amid layoffs and resignations from workers across different industries due to their unwillingness to receive a coronavirus vaccine…

“Our essential workers are true heroes,” Blackburn told Fox News. “For over 18 months, essential workers showed up to serve and protect their communities. Businesses across the country are desperate for workers and we are in the midst of a supply chain crisis. There are more than 10.4 million open jobs across the country, and now President Biden wants to fire even more workers. Getting vaccinated is a choice that should be made between a patient and their doctor. No one should be forced by Joe Biden to be fired or get jabbed.”

The sponsors who have already signed on to the bill include some of the bigger names in the Senate GOP, including Inhofe, Braun, Tuberville, and Ron Johnson. The bill would exempt all essential workers from any vaccine mandate imposed by the federal government or “any entity” (meaning any employer) who receives federal funding in any form. So we’re talking about a lot of people.

The proposal is being made even more broad by not limiting qualifying workers to just first responders. It would include all workers who were deemed “essential” by the various state, municipal, and tribal governments around the country. That would include people working at vaccination or testing pods, transit drivers and operators, and even grocery store workers. Of course, it would also cover police officers and other first responders as well.

Sadly, I can’t even imagine Chuck Schumer being willing to bring this up for debate or a floor vote. The same goes for Pelosi if a matching bill crops up in the House. And even if it somehow snuck through, Biden would never sign a law specifically designed to undermine one of his executive orders.

But getting the law passed isn’t the point, as I already mentioned. Now that the bill has been drafted, it becomes a subject for public debate and a topic that the media will have to get everyone in Congress and at the White House to weigh in on. Should things like forcing people to choose between a jab and a job be handled via executive order or do they need to be put through the normal legislative process? And how many members will be willing to go on record and say that they support firing the people who kept the country on its feet through the worst of the pandemic based on a personal healthcare decision they made? That’s going to be an uncomfortable question for a lot of these officials, particularly when they are only weeks away from kicking off their midterm reelection bids in earnest.

I’m aware that several recent polls have shown a depressing number of people saying that they are comfortable with employer vaccine mandates, and Biden is likely counting on those numbers to keep his public approval from tanking even further on this subject. But when you narrow the image down to essential workers and first responders being shown the door after all they did over the past 18 months or more, I would imagine that those sentiments are going to shift considerably.