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POLICY DIGEST: Senate votes to block vaccine mandate; California vows to be sanctuary for abortion

Baptist Press Policy Digest


Senate votes to block Biden’s vaccine mandate for businesses

WASHINGTON (AP) – The Senate narrowly approved a resolution Wednesday to nullify the Biden administration’s requirement that businesses with 100 or more workers have their employees be vaccinated against the coronavirus or submit to weekly testing.

The vote was 52-48. The Democratic-led House is unlikely to take the measure up, which means the mandate would stand, though courts have put it on hold for now. Still, the vote gave senators a chance to voice opposition to a policy that they say has sparked fears back home from businesses and from unvaccinated constituents who worry about losing their jobs should the rule go into effect.

“Every so often Washington, D.C., does something that lights up the phone lines. This is one of these moments,” said Sen. Steve Daines, R-Mont. At home, he said, “this issue is what I hear about. This issue is a top-of-mind issue.”

Lawmakers can invalidate certain federal agency regulations if a joint resolution is approved by both houses of Congress and signed by the president, or if Congress overrides a presidential veto. That’s unlikely to happen in this case.

Under the rule, private-sector companies with 100 or more workers must require their employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested for the virus weekly and wear masks on the job. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration said it would work with companies on compliance but would fine them up to more than $13,000 for each violation, though implementation and enforcement is suspended as the litigation unfolds.

Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said Americans who have refused to get vaccinated are the biggest impediment to ending the pandemic. He implied that some of the resistance to mandated vaccines is based on politics.

“Some of the anti-vaxxers here in this chamber remind me of what happened 400 years ago when people were clinging to the fact that the sun revolved around the Earth. They just didn’t believe science. Or 500 years ago when they were sure the Earth was flat,” Schumer said.

Republicans said they are supportive of the vaccine, but that the mandate amounts to government overreach.

“His mandates are under fire in the courts. Main Street job creators are complaining against it, and tonight, the U.S. Senate must send a clear message: back off this bad idea,” Braun said.

Some argued that the mandate may even contribute to people not getting vaccinated.

“I think, actually, the mandate has made it worse in terms of hardening people who don’t want to be told what to do by the government,” said Sen. John Barrasso, R-Wyo.

The White House released a statement earlier this week stating that Biden’s advisers would recommend he veto the resolution in the unlikely event it makes it to his desk.


California plans to be first sanctuary for abortion if Supreme Court overturns Roe

SACRAMENTO, Calif. (AP) – With more than two dozen states poised to ban abortion if the U.S. Supreme Court gives them the OK next year, California clinics and their allies in the state legislature on Wednesday revealed a plan to make the state a “sanctuary” for those seeking reproductive care, including possibly paying for travel, lodging and procedures for people from other states.

The California Future of Abortion Council, made up of more than 40 abortion providers and advocacy groups, released a list of 45 recommendations for the state to consider if the high court overturns Roe v. Wade – the 48-year-old decision that forbids states from outlawing abortion.

The recommendations are not just a liberal fantasy. Some of the state’s most important policymakers helped write them, including Toni Atkins, the San Diego Democrat who leads the state Senate and attended multiple meetings.

Democratic Gov. Gavin Newsom started the group himself and in an interview last week with The Associated Press said some of the report’s details will be included in his budget proposal in January.

“We’ll be a sanctuary,” Newsom said, adding he’s aware patients will likely travel to California from other states to seek abortions. “We are looking at ways to support that inevitability and looking at ways to expand our protections.”

Brent Leatherwood, Southern Baptist Convention Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission acting president, reacted to the news.

“When I first learned of the proposal, I was stunned at the lengths some California leaders are apparently willing to go in order to make their state an abortion destination,” Leatherwood said. “I asked myself, ‘Surely this isn’t what Californians aspire to?’”

Leatherwood believes this is the first sign of what will happen across the country if Roe v. Wade is overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court.

“As utterly depraved as this plan is and the fact taxpayer resources will be used to implement and carry it out, it should serve as a clear reminder to the pro-life movement: Our work is far from over,” he said. “Because, as much as we will rightly celebrate Roe being weakened or overturned, it will mark the beginning of a new pro-life generation where service in local communities and one-on-one relationships will be essential for carrying the cause of life forward in all 50 states. The reality is, for many of us, the abortion debate is about to come to our backyard – and we must be ready.”

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