Legislation has been reintroduced in the new session of Congress to repeal President Biden’s federal employee vaccine mandate.
The bill is known as the Freedom from Mandates Act (H.R. 119) and was introduced by Congressman Andy Biggs (R-AZ). The bill would nullify executive orders that Biden issued requiring COVID vaccinations for federal contractors and federal employees.
The bill also prohibits the Secretary of Labor from issuing any rule requiring employers to mandate vaccination of employees against COVID–19 or requiring testing of employees who are unvaccinated against COVID–19.
In his 2021 executive order which established the federal employee vaccine mandate, Biden wrote:
The health and safety of the Federal workforce, and the health and safety of members of the public with whom they interact, are foundational to the efficiency of the civil service. I have determined that ensuring the health and safety of the Federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service requires immediate action to protect the Federal workforce and individuals interacting with the Federal workforce. It is essential that Federal employees take all available steps to protect themselves and avoid spreading COVID-19 to their co-workers and members of the public. The CDC has found that the best way to do so is to be vaccinated.
…I have determined that to promote the health and safety of the Federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service, it is necessary to require COVID-19 vaccination for all Federal employees, subject to such exceptions as required by law.
Each agency shall implement, to the extent consistent with applicable law, a program to require COVID-19 vaccination for all of its Federal employees, with exceptions only as required by law.Executive Order 14043 – Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees
In a statement about the bill, Biggs said:
Now with a Republican majority in the House, we have a better opportunity to pass legislation that reverses COVID vaccine and mask mandate policies set by fanatics who seek to maintain control over Americans. These power-hungry individuals are rejecting science. COVID cases and deaths remain low. Normal life has returned. Most importantly, individuals should be making their own COVID and healthcare choices—not tyrannical government officials. All types of COVID-related mandates have got to go and these pieces of legislation help us get there.
The legislation was last introduced in 2021 but failed to advance. A companion bill was introduced in the Senate at that time as well by Senator James Lankford (R-OK).
In a statement issued at that time, Biggs said:
The federal government may not force the American people to get a vaccine against their will. President Biden’s continued attempts to trample on the rights and liberties of Americans must not be tolerated. His vaccine mandates are just another example of using fear and division to pit Americans against each other and maintain his control. The American people must be allowed to make their own health care decisions. It is their right.
Whether or not the bill will fare any better in the new session of Congress remains to be seen.
Status of the Federal Employee Vaccine Mandate
According to the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force website, the vaccine mandate is currently not being enforced because of ongoing litigation in the courts. Lawsuits were filed over the vaccine mandate when it was first introduced, and an injunction was issued that prevented the federal government from continuing to enforce the mandate.
The website notes:
To ensure compliance with an applicable preliminary nationwide injunction, which may be supplemented, modified, or vacated, depending on the course of ongoing litigation, the Federal Government will take no action to implement or enforce the COVID-19 vaccination requirement pursuant to Executive Order 14043 on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees.
At the time the injunction was issued, the White House had said that about 98% of the federal workforce was in compliance with the vaccine mandate.
President Biden said not long ago that “the pandemic is over” when asked about it during an interview in last September on 60 Minutes. “The pandemic is over. We still have a problem with Covid. We’re still doing a lot of work on it. It’s – but the pandemic is over,” Biden said. That in combination with the high compliance rate of the federal workforce would seem to imply that a federal employee vaccine mandate would now be considered passé, however, the federal government has continued litigation of the federal employee vaccine mandate in the courts.
Military Vaccine Mandate Has Been Repealed
Another recent event that could add further support to the notion of repealing the federal employee vaccine mandate is the recent elimination of the military vaccine mandate.
The National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) was signed into law on December 23, 2022 and it contained a provision that eliminated the military vaccine mandate. This was formalized when the Defense Department rescinded the mandate for members of the military via a memo issued by Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin on January 10, 2023.
The future of the federal employee vaccine mandate ultimately looks like it will be determined either by the courts or from Congress via bills such as this one.