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Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, walks to a luncheon for Senate Republican on Capitol Hill in Washington.
Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, right, walks to a luncheon for Senate Republicans on Thursday, Dec. 2, 2021, on Capitol Hill in Washington. Two centrists Democrats joined all 50 Republicans, including Lee and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, in approving a measure to scrap President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.
Jacquelyn Martin, Associated Press

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‘My name is Mike, and I’m pro-vaccine but I’m anti-mandate’

Utah GOP Sen. Mike Lee rails against federal vaccine mandate before Senate vote to scrap it

Sen. Mike Lee sounded a lot like someone introducing himself in group therapy during a news conference before a Senate vote to scrap President Joe Biden’s federal vaccine mandate.

“My name is Mike, and I’m pro-vaccine. But I’m anti-mandate because I’m pro-worker,” the Utah Republican said. “I also happen to be very strongly anti-legislation-by-executive-order.”

Lee has stood on the Senate floor at least 19 times in the past few weeks trying every way possible to counter Biden’s mandate requiring employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or tests negative for the virus. All of his proposals failed due to objections from Democrats.

But on Wednesday, the Senate narrowly passed a mostly symbolic resolution to overturn the regulation, which federal courts have already blocked amid several lawsuits brought by Republican states. Two centrists Democrats joined all 50 Republicans, including Lee and Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, in approving the measure.

The House is not expected to consider the resolution, which aims to nullify a Department of Labor emergency temporary standard for preventing the transmission of COVID-19 in the workplace. Administration officials said Biden would veto it should it reach his desk.

Lee said it will be difficult for the House to not pass the bill.

“There’s no choice. They have no option other than to take it up. It will receive a vote, and when it receives a vote, members of the House are going to have to make the decision on how they will face their constituents ... and tell them, ‘I’m not concerned about your job,’” he said.

Lee said 45 million American jobs, including 500,000 in Utah, are at stake — “directly on the chopping block” — if the mandate is allowed to stand.

“This isn’t right. It’s simply an immoral proposition,” he said, adding the requirement also is unconstitutional.

At the end of the day, the U.S. Supreme Court will strike it down as it has other “egregious” exercises of presidential power, “of which this one is a doozy,” Lee said.

“I don’t think in our lifetimes that we’ve seen a single executive action that even compares to this one in terms of its breathtaking excess,” he said.

Although the high court might rule on the issue, only Congress can permanently and immediately stop the rule to save people’s jobs in time for the holidays, Lee said.

A majority of Democrats denounced the Republican effort as one to undercut the vaccination of Americans, The New York Times reported. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., said “taking tools out of the toolbox is just plain dumb.”

“There should be one message and one message only coming from this chamber to the American people,” said Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y. “Get vaccinated, get boosted, and stay safe yourself — keep your families, your communities and our country safe.”

Utah is among the Republican-controlled states that have joined lawsuits seeking to overturn vaccine mandates for larger businesses, federal contractors and health care professionals who work with Medicare and Medicaid. Courts have put the regulations on hold pending the outcome of litigation.

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