Sen. Marsha Blackburn introduced legislation Tuesday aimed at providing an exemption to the Biden administration’s federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for those considered essential workers during the pandemic.
The Tennessee Republican argued that the federal vaccine mandate would exacerbate the country’s labor shortage, making the case that it could have negative implications for the supply chain crisis.
“What this would do is exempt essential workers, individuals that were deemed essential during the pandemic it and exempt them from the federal vaccine mandate,” she said.
“And we know that those essential workers, all of those health care workers, airline workers, individuals that are first responders, law enforcement, they all figured out a way to get to work to protect themselves and protect their families. If they don’t want to get the vaccine, they ought to be able to continue working without being forced to get the vaccine.”
President Biden signed an executive order in September requiring federal employees and contractors be vaccinated in an effort to stop the spread of the deadly virus. But Republicans have argued the move is unconstitutional.
Blackburn said she is grateful for the Trump administration’s efforts on Operation Warp Speed, which expedited the development of the vaccine, but argued that she believes it should be a personal choice.
“One of the things we are hearing from people is that, you know, it’s not that they’re anti-vaxx, it is just they want it to be their choice. We’re also hearing from some employers, that it would be impossible for them to get their workforce completely vaccinated by Dec. 8,” she said.
Blackburn added that she has heard from constituents that have reservations about certain preexisting conditions and religious objections, which she feels should be provided an exemption.
“We’re hearing from people who have medical concerns that maybe it’s a history of respiratory disease or a history of heart disease in their family, and they are not wanting to take this,” she continued.
“I’ve talked to people who have discussed it with their physician and their physician has recommended that they not get the vaccine. I have talked to people that have a religious objection, and their businesses are not allowing that religious exemption to be heard.”
Sens. Jim Inhofe (R-Okla.), Cynthia Lummis (R-Wyo.), Bill Hagerty (R-Tenn.), Mike Braun (R-Ind.), Tommy Tuberville (R- Ala.), Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Roger Marshall (R-Kansas) have signed onto Blackburn’s “Keeping Our COVID-19 Heroes Employed Act.”