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Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
DES MOINES — A defiant Gov. Kim Reynolds on Thursday promised “immediate” legal action over a Biden administration rule requiring larger businesses to have their employees get COVID-19 vaccinations or face regular workplace testing.
“President Biden is taking dangerous and unprecedented steps to insert the federal government even further into our lives while dismissing the ability of Iowans and Americans to make health care decisions for themselves,” Reynolds, a Republican, said in a statement promising to challenge the new federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule on vaccines for employees of companies employing 100 or more.
“Biden’s plan pits Americans against Americans, while forcing them to choose between making a living or standing up for their personal beliefs. Biden’s actions will only worsen the existing workforce shortages and supply chain issues that hinder our economic recovery,” the Iowa governor added. “I believe the vaccine is the best defense against COVID-19, but I also firmly believe in Iowans’ right to make healthcare decisions based on what’s best for themselves and their families, and I remain committed to protecting those freedoms. President Biden should do the same.”
Under Thursday’s directive, workers at larger businesses will have to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or face regular testing. According to U.S. Labor Department guidance, workers who choose the testing option may have to bear the cost, as well as beginning Dec. 5 being required to wear a face mask on the job.
“For our country, the choice is simple: get more people vaccinated, or prolong this pandemic and its impact on our country,” President Joe Biden said in a statement Thursday. “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. And while I would have much preferred that requirements not become necessary, too many people remain unvaccinated for us to get out of this pandemic for good. So I instituted requirements — and they are working. They protect our workers and have helped us reduce the number of unvaccinated Americans over the age of 12 from approximately 100 million in late July when I began requirements to just about 60 million today.
According to the Iowa Workforce Development, the OSHA rule could apply to more than 923,000 workers at over 2,200 businesses in Iowa.
Last week the governor signed legislation that allows employees in private Iowa businesses to claim they are medically vulnerable or have a religious objection to a mandated vaccine based solely on their statements, rather than with the backing by a professional. Under the bill that took effect upon enactment, Iowans who lose their jobs for refusing to comply with an employer's COVID-19 vaccination requirement will still be eligible for unemployment benefits if they are terminated.
On the same day, Reynolds announced that Iowa had joined nine other states in a lawsuit challenging Biden’s vaccine mandate for all workers employed by a federal contractor, which is one-fifth of the nation’s workforce.
Jeff Kaufmann, a former state legislator who is chairman of the Republican Party of Iowa, joined Reynolds Thursday in berating the Democratic president for going back on a December 2020 promise not to make the vaccine mandatory.
“Small businesses have endured the COVID pandemic, worker shortages, supply chain issues, and an economy reeling, including climbing inflation, thanks to the disastrous policies of the Democrats and the Biden administration,” said Kaufmann.
“Today's broken promise is placing yet another burdensome regulation on the country's small businesses and their employees,” he added. “The Republican Party of Iowa wholeheartedly supports Gov. Reynolds' fight against these lawless mandates."
Senate Majority Leader Jack Whitver, R-Ankeny, said it appeared the Biden administration delayed the rule’s implementations “purposefully in a futile effort to avoid political fallout” in this week’s elections, calling the governor’s effort to “resist this federal overreach” the “right path” for Iowa.
“I look forward to a swift and expansive suspension of this rule,” he said.
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