Sen. Mike Lee took another shot Wednesday at President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate, and predictably struck out for the second day in a row.
This time the Utah Republican proposed legislation he dubbed the “Don’t Jab Me Act” that would allow people who lose their jobs or their livelihoods because of the vaccine requirements to sue the federal government.
“The bill would make these very Americans whole after the president of the United States made working impossible for them,” Lee said on the Senate floor.
Sen. Dick Durbin, D-Ill., objected to Lee’s attempt to pass the measure by unanimous consent, sending it to defeat in the same fashion as his legislation Tuesday.
The “very vague” language in the bill would prompt a flood of lawsuits by people claiming that the vaccine mandate harmed them in a physical or nonphysical way, Durbin said. In the rare case that a person suffers physical injury as a result of a COVID-19 shot, there’s already a system in place to provide compensation, he said.
Durbin also displayed a chart showing coronavirus infection and death rates in the 24 states, including Utah, that have threatened to sue Biden if the mandate becomes law.
“Well, it turns out the infection rate for COVID-19 is more than twice in those states as it is in the states not filing these lawsuits. The death rate is almost three times the rate of those states that didn’t file a lawsuit and the vaccination rates are significantly lower,” he said.
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. Businesses that don’t comply could face fines of up to $14,000 per violation. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is to issue an emergency temporary standard implementing the new requirement, which will cover 80 million private-sector workers.
In announcing the plan earlier this month, Biden said it’s “not about freedom or personal choice.”
Lee, who has received the COVID-19 vaccine and supports vaccination, said his bill is about allowing people to obtain redress for, among other things, the “awful Hobson’s choice” they are facing and increasingly going to face as the mandate kicks in. People shouldn’t have to choose between their jobs and personal health care decisions, he said.
His office is in contact with 144 Utahns, including pregnant mothers, medical professionals and essential workers, who are concerned about being required to get the vaccine, Lee said. Doctors, he said, have advised some people to not get the vaccine due to autoimmune deficiencies or other medical reasons. Others don’t get the shot for religious reasons, he said.
“These Americans are not the enemy,” he said. “President Biden and those who support this effort are grasping for solutions they believe can bolster their political position and shift the blame on the status of the pandemic.”
Lee reiterated his belief that the president lacks the authority to issue the mandate, and that in merely announcing it, has turned businesses into the “COVID-19 vaccine police for the entire country.”
The senator said it “stuns” him to think that a sweeping federal mandate could be about anything other than freedom and personal choice.
“It’s like robbing a bank and then saying it’s not about the money,” he said.
Lee said he intends to keep filing bills “as long as it takes to fight this egregious mandate.”