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Exclusive: Biggs offers bill banning federal vaccine passports

Exclusive: Biggs offers bill banning federal vaccine passports
© Greg Nash

House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) on Thursday introduced a bill that would bar federal government agencies from issuing or requiring "vaccine passports," according to a copy of the legislation obtained first by The Hill.

The bill, titled the "No Vaccine Passports Act," would stipulate that federal agencies could not issue standardized documentation showing an individual has gotten a COVID-19 vaccine nor could they require proof of a COVID-19 vaccine to access federal grounds.

"Vaccine passports will not help our nation recover from COVID-19; instead, they will simply impose more Big Brother surveillance on our society," Biggs said in a statement to The Hill.

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Biggs cited Florida Gov. Ron DeSantisRon DeSantisPalm Beach prosecutor says DeSantis could delay hypothetical Trump extradition Republicans seize on conservative backlash against critical race theory Journalism dies in newsroom cultures where 'fairness is overrated' MORE's move last week to sign an executive order outlawing vaccine passports, calling him "an early leader" on the subject and saying his legislation would build off that order.

The bill has 18 co-sponsors, most of which are members of the House Freedom Caucus. Among the co-sponsors are Reps. Louie GohmertLouis (Louie) Buller GohmertDemocrat moves to censure three Republicans for downplaying Jan. 6 Gohmert says Jan. 6 mob attack on Capitol not an 'armed insurrection' Pence to give keynote address at National Conservative Student Conference MORE (R-Texas), Chip RoyCharles (Chip) Eugene RoyThe Hill's 12:30 Report - Presented by Facebook - What the CDC's updated mask guidance means GOP votes to replace Cheney with Stefanik after backing from Trump The Hill's Morning Report - Presented by Facebook - Masks off: CDC greenlights return to normal for vaccinated Americans MORE (R-Texas), Madison Cawthorn (R-N.C.), Marjorie Taylor GreeneMarjorie Taylor GreeneThe Memo: What now for anti-Trump Republicans? Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene says she's meeting with Trump 'soon' in Florida QAnon site shutters after reports identifying developer MORE (R-Ga.), Mary Miller (R-Ill.) and Jody HiceJody Brownlow HiceRomney: Capitol riot was 'an insurrection against the Constitution' Democrat moves to censure three Republicans for downplaying Jan. 6 GOP downplays Jan. 6 violence: Like a 'normal tourist visit' MORE (R-Ga.). 

The legislation faces an uphill battle to passage in the Democratic-controlled House, and Biden administration officials have repeatedly made clear they do not intend to support or have any involvement in a federalized vaccine passport program and would instead defer to the private sector to determine the need for any sort of documentation.

"The government is not now, nor will we be supporting a system that requires Americans to carry a credential. There will be no federal vaccinations database and no federal mandate requiring everyone to obtain a single vaccination credential," White House press secretary Jen PsakiJen PsakiBiden's quiet diplomacy under pressure as Israel-Hamas fighting intensifies Overnight Defense: Administration approves 5M arms sale to Israel | Biden backs ceasefire in call with Netanyahu | Military sexual assault reform push reaches turning point CDC mask update sparks confusion, opposition MORE said Tuesday.

"Our interest is very simple from the federal government, which is American's privacy and rights should be protected so that these systems are not used against people unfairly," Psaki added.

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While no actual vaccine passport system has been established, and agencies like the World Health Organization (WHO) have questioned their potential usefulness, that has not stopped conservatives from preemptively coming out in forceful opposition to the concept.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott (R) on Monday issued an executive order prohibiting vaccine passports, saying a system to track those who have been inoculated against COVID-19 infringes on citizens' rights.  

Greene, the controversial congresswoman whose conspiratorial remarks have drawn criticism even from some in her own party, last week called the proposal a form of “corporate communism.”

The opposition comes as polling shows Republicans are among the least likely groups to say they will definitely get the coronavirus vaccine. Biggs has previously come out in opposition to mandates requiring Americans to wear masks or get the coronavirus vaccine.

Some public health experts have argued requiring proof of vaccination could make Americans feel more safe as they ease back into regular activities during the pandemic like attending large events or eating indoors at a restaurant. But business leaders are split on the idea and have been hesitant to embrace a system that might discriminate against those who are vaccine hesitant for one reason or another.

Scott Kirby, CEO of United Airlines, said during an event with the Council on Foreign Relations on Tuesday that he thinks it’s almost certain there will be a requirement to prove full vaccination to travel to somewhere like Asia from the U.S.

"I am supportive of some kind of vaccine passport as a way to begin opening international borders,” he said.

“My guess is we’re not going to wind up doing that domestically, and hopefully we’ll get close enough to herd immunity that we’re OK,” he said. "I don’t see it happening in the U.S."