Biden defends COVID-19 vaccination mandate for businesses

President BidenJoe BidenChina eyes military base on Africa's Atlantic coast: report Biden orders flags be flown at half-staff through Dec. 9 to honor Dole Biden heading to Kansas City to promote infrastructure package MORE on Thursday defended his administration's coronavirus vaccination mandate for businesses, arguing it will not lead to worker shortages amid pushback from Republicans over the impact it could have on the economy.

The Labor Department released the sweeping vaccine-or-test mandate, which applies to businesses with at least 100 employees, on Thursday and set a Jan. 4 deadline for companies to comply.

“As we’ve seen with businesses – large and small – across all sectors of our economy, the overwhelming majority of Americans choose to get vaccinated,” Biden said in a statement. “There have been no ‘mass firings’ and worker shortages because of vaccination requirements. Despite what some predicted and falsely assert, vaccination requirements have broad public support.”

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The president also argued that vaccine requirements are nothing new, noting they exist for other diseases, and that safety requirements are also not new. He said that he “would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary” but that the requirements are because “too many people” are unvaccinated. 

The mandate is expected to cover 84 million people and was developed by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). OSHA plans to conduct workplace inspections and the standard penalty is $13,653 for a single violation, which would increase if there are multiple violations.

“The virus will not go away by itself, or because we wish it away: we have to act. Vaccination is the single best pathway out of this pandemic,” Biden said.

Republicans have criticized the mandate since Biden first announced it in September. Republican governors, including Texas Gov. Greg AbbottGreg AbbottSunday shows preview: Multiple states detect cases of the omicron variant Hillicon Valley —TSA to strengthen rail sector cybersecurity When politics trump workers' health, we know who gets burned MORE and Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisThe Memo: Media obsess over Trump's past as he eyes comeback DeSantis proposes civilian Florida State Guard military force he would control Haley hits the stump in South Carolina MORE, have vowed to fight it in court. 

The top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, Rep. Virginia FoxxVirginia Ann FoxxGOP beginning to jockey for post-election leadership slots GOP lawmaker fined ,000 for failing to complete House security screening Former GOP Rep. Mark Walker fielding calls about dropping NC Senate bid, running for House MORE (R-N.C.), issued a statement on Thursday, saying “job creators should not be forced to become the vaccine-and-testing police for [Biden].”

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She said businesses are already dealing with worker shortages, rampant inflation and a broken supply chain. 

Biden called on employers to act on Thursday.

“Businesses have more power than ever before to accelerate our path out of this pandemic, save lives, and protect our economic recovery,” he said.

He also made the case for vaccine requirements as a way for the economy to bounce back following the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Vaccination requirements are good for the economy. They not only increase vaccination rates but they help send people back to work – as many as 5 million American workers. They make our economy more resilient in the face of COVID and keep our businesses open,” he said.

The deadline for health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid to get fully vaccinated is also Jan. 4, and the administration pushed back the deadline for employees of federal contractors to be fully vaccinated to that date.

On the health care workers rule, the president said, “No one should be at risk when they seek medical care.”