Options Over Terminations

Floor Speech

Date: Nov. 4, 2021
Location: Washington, DC


Mr. NEWHOUSE. Mr. Speaker, there is no doubt about it, we are in a time of crisis largely fueled by the Democratic Party and President Biden's policies. Store shelves are increasingly empty, the cost of basic goods is soaring, supply chains are failing, ports are backlogged, and government restrictions on domestic energy have driven the price of gasoline to 7-year highs. Who is it that foots the bill for these progressive policies? I will tell you, it is hardworking American families.

Rather than address the underlying causes of scarcity by bolstering American production and enhancing our Nation's energy independence, the Biden administration has worsened the situation with their dictatorial policies and mandates, most recently in the form of an executive order requiring all Federal employees and contractors be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by November 22 and December 8, respectively.

The alternative? Termination.

This mandate goes too far and has become a model for Democratic Governors across the country--including my own State of Washington's Governor Inslee--who are using it to justify their own drastic actions and impose similar State-level mandates.

Now, in addition to the hundreds of State emergency personnel who are already out of work, threatening the safety of our communities, central Washington also has hundreds of Federal workers and contractors who are facing termination.

American businesses have been struggling enough to find workers, fill production shifts, and deliver goods. President Biden's one-size-fits- all vaccine mandate will further hammer our small businesses, driving up prices, slowing down deliveries, and exacerbating supply chain problems.

First responders and frontline healthcare workers are also being fired for not complying with COVID-19 vaccine mandates. In the State of Washington, we have seen hundreds of our brave law enforcement officers forced to choose between vaccination and doing their jobs. Leaving our communities, which are facing rising crime rates, unprotected is not going to increase anyone's safety.

Hospitals and health clinics are experiencing staffing shortages as well. The remaining employees are then overworked to compensate, leading to burnout and increased staff turnover. Leaving our hospitals understaffed is not going to help our communities overcome this public health crisis.

President Biden's deadline for the vaccine mandate brushes right up against the peak holiday season. Since cargo distribution companies are already battling unprecedented labor shortages, this mandate is likely to wreak havoc on the global supply chain when it is stressed the most, during the holidays. Leaving our tables empty and the space under our Christmas trees bare is not going to improve morale.

But why is President Biden perpetuating a permanent state of emergency? The only answer that comes to mind is that he is more concerned about expanding governmental control than the safety and stability of our workforce or the protection of our individual rights.

Not only does this mandate go against our inalienable rights protected in the Constitution, but it ignores the fact that natural immunity also provides protection against infection from the virus. In fact, other countries have adopted policies upholding this as a valid, science-based exemption from vaccine requirements. The mandate also doesn't allow workers to opt out through frequent COVID testing, as many private businesses have chosen to do.

Federal employees who have opted not to receive the vaccine because they have natural immunity developed after recovering from the virus do not deserve to be fired, especially when those same men and women have worked tirelessly to keep our communities safe and healthy before there was even a vaccine available. These men and women, who have been on the front lines since the beginning of the pandemic and risking their families' health and safety to ensure our Federal and State projects continued and that our communities remained protected, deserve our respect, not our condemnation.

But the President has doubled down on his policies, stating that he absolutely thinks police officers and emergency responders should be fired if they do not comply with this mandate.

That is why I introduced the Options Over Terminations Act. This legislation would provide an exemption to the Federal COVID-19 mandate for any Federal employee or contractor who provides proof of COVID-19 antibodies.

Mr. Speaker, I urge my colleagues to support my legislation and provide our workers with a smart, science-based alternative to President Biden's vaccine mandate.