A day after Gov. Chris Sununu called her out for remaining silent on President Joe Biden’s proposed national vaccine mandate, Sen. Maggie Hassan began pointing the media to an essay she posted on an obscure website supporting Biden’s actions.
In her short essay at Medium.com, Hassan invoked Gen. George Washington and the childhood polio vaccine in defense of his edict. But in an unusual move, Hassan didn’t release a statement of support on her official Senate website or even send a tweet. Instead, she posted her thoughts on Medium, where she has just 2,000 followers.
“The science is clear: the best way to get back on track is to increase vaccinations, which is why I support new rules that require employees in large and mid-size businesses to have regular COVID tests or get vaccinated,” Hassan wrote. “This isn’t a new idea. Since the beginning of our nation’s history, we’ve battled the spread of disease and illness through vaccination requirements — from George Washington requiring his troops to get the smallpox vaccine during America’s founding to the requirement that children receive the Polio vaccine — Americans have seen and understood the threat that pandemics pose to our way of life, economy, and ultimately our freedom.”
Opponents of Biden’s vaccine mandate like Sununu describe themselves as pro-vax but anti-mandate. They argue the vaccine is beneficial and every eligible person should get it. But inventing a new power, one not in the Constitution, is a long-term danger to our democratic system.
“Our system is designed to create protections for individuals: individual businesses, individual students, individual parents. Individuals should always have more power than some overriding government to sit on top of them,” Sununu said Wednesday.
“Nobody in Washington is thinking about New Hampshire when they, with the sweep of a pen, create this obscure OSHA rule that’s going to create a mandate.”
That is at odds with Hassan’s argument the government should treat adult citizens like they are enlisted members of the military. Or underage children. It’s an extreme extension of government power in general and federal power in particular.
Her views are similar to the sentiments of Hassan supporter and NH AFL-CIO President Glenn Brackett who said earlier this week: “There are things that have to be done in this country that supersede individual rights.”
Most legal scholars believe that, while governors and state legislatures have extensive powers to deal with public health emergencies, presidents do not. Indeed, that was Biden’s position in July, when he was unwilling to mandate the vaccine for federal workers, much less private-sector workers.
“That’s not an authority that we’re exploring at all,” White House COVID-19 Response Coordinator Jeff Zients said on July 29.
Today, the Biden administration has abandoned that position and Hassan is supporting the expanded, new powers.
“Today, every state in the country requires certain vaccinations for children to protect their health and prevent outbreaks that can cost lives and hurt our economy, ” Hassan wrote. “And our military requires a wide range of vaccines for service members, ensuring the health and readiness of our armed forces. Businesses, too, have long been required to provide safe and healthy workplaces.
“In 1970, a Republican president created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to set and to enforce workplace health and safety standards for protection against workplace injury,” Hassan added.
Is Hassan comparing a vaccinated worker who encounters an unvaccinated one to a “workplace injury?” Is she arguing states requiring children to get vaccines is the same as a president ordering medical treatment for healthy adults?
Hassan did not respond to requests for comment.
However, experts in labor law have noted OSHA emergency standards orders and similar actions by the agency have been shot down by the courts five out of the six times they’ve been used.
If the first-term senator — who has the lowest job approval of any of the top-tier elected officials in the state — is hoping for a bump in the polls, she may have miscalculated. A new Quinnipiac poll finds Americans evenly split (51 – 48 percent) on Biden’s mandate.