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What do steel mills have to do with Biden’s vaccine mandate? Sen. Mike Lee explains

SHARE What do steel mills have to do with Biden’s vaccine mandate? Sen. Mike Lee explains
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Texas’ abortion law on Capitol Hill in Washington.

Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, attends a Senate Judiciary Committee hearing on Texas’ abortion law on Wednesday, Sept. 29, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Lee capped off his drive to counter President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large businesses by comparing the “unabashed power grab” to President Harry S. Truman’s attempt to seize U.S. steel mills for the Korean War effort.

Tom Williams, Associated Press

Sen. Mike Lee capped off his drive to counter President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large businesses by comparing the “unabashed power grab” to President Harry S. Truman’s attempt to seize U.S. steel mills for the Korean War effort.

Saying from the outset that he’s here to defend Americans, the Utah Republican has taken to the Senate floor to propose 12 bills challenging Biden’s directive over the past month. All have failed. Lee also said he isn’t finished fighting it.

On Wednesday, he, Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and eight other GOP senators sent a letter to Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., saying they will oppose any measure that would provide funding for the vaccine mandate.

“The American people have gone through enough. Please do not become an accessory to such a willful act of barbarism,” the senators wrote.

Under Biden’s plan, companies with 100 or more employees would have to require their workers to be vaccinated or undergo at least weekly coronavirus testing or face being fired. Businesses that don’t comply would be assessed hefty fines. The president in September tasked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration with issuing emergency temporary standards implementing the new requirement, but that has yet to happen.

In the meantime, many large employers have imposed their own mandates to get ahead of the regulations. A Deseret News/Hinckley Institute of Politics poll last month found Utahns overwhelmingly oppose Biden’s proposed policy.

Lee said the president’s directive, which he called unconstitutional, has forced countless workers out of a job and prevented others from joining the labor force. It has especially taken a toll on the poor and the middle class, he said.

“Is it moral? Is it proper?” Lee said Wednesday on the Senate floor. “Is it acceptable to do this to America’s poor and middle class? It is not.”

Calling it an “unabashed power grab,” the senator said he can’t think of a more egregious example of a president exercising power he doesn’t have in decades. He said it’s reminiscent of Truman trying to seize American steel mills to aid the Korean War effort in 1952.

“The American people did not smile upon that one, neither did the Supreme Court of the United States,” Lee said.

The Supreme Court hasn’t acted on Biden’s mandate because he hasn’t had the “basic decency” to issue an order explaining the basis for his authority, consequently no one can sue over it, he said.

In the letter, Lee and the GOP senators said implementation of the order would have “catastrophic” impacts on the country. Americans, the letter says, who decided not comply with the vaccine mandate will not suddenly accept coercion. Biden made a bet that he could force people to comply with his edicts by threatening their livelihoods, according to the letter.

“He was so sure of his winning hand that he wagered the machinery that allows our nation to function,” the senators wrote. “When he loses that bet the blame will be fully his. ... It is unwise to bet that Americans will cave to petty tyranny.”