If President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate is smart New Hampshire politics, you can’t tell it from watching Granite State Democrats.
While the NHGOP is aggressively fundraising off the president’s forced-vaccine order, Biden’s fellow Democrats are still largely silent, with cracks showing in their party’s coalition.
Last week, Biden announced he is ordering all federal workers and contractors to get vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus as a condition of employment. He’s also issuing a similar mandate for employees of any healthcare facility that takes Medicare or Medicaid patients, which will reach the vast majority of the industry. And he intends to use an obscure Occupational Safety and Health Administration regulation to force private companies with 100 employees or more to be inoculated or face weekly testing.
Legal scholars are uncertain whether Biden’s proposals, which will be challenged in court, can pass constitutional muster. Biden himself has expressed doubts about a president’s power regarding vaccine mandates and as recently as last month said he would not impose one.
But Granite State Republicans are certain they’ve got a winning issue. Both the state Republican Party and House Majority Leader Jason Osborne sent fundraising emails over the weekend, as did at least one House Republican.
“The Biden administration has gone too far. Their vaccine mandate is indefensible, unconstitutional, and un-American,” NHGOP chairman Steve Stepanek wrote. “We’re not mandating those that illegally cross our border get vaccinated, but we’re going to force a medical decision upon hardworking Americans?
“Help us in this fight to hold hypocritical Democrats accountable and defeat them in 2022 by donating today.”
New Hampshire Democratic Party chair Ray Buckley responded on Twitter by calling Stepanek’s claims “deadly hyperbole by Sununu and his minions. Fed employees must either get vaccinated OR get tested three times per week.”
Buckley’s statement is factually untrue. Biden has taken away the testing option from federal workers and contractors. They must be vaccinated to remain employed.
Whether Buckely was merely mistaken or attempting to mislead, his response is yet another sign Democrats aren’t sure how “get vaxxed or get fired” is going to play with voters, in particular independent voters,
That may be why, rather than endorsing Biden’s mandate, their campaign email over the weekend attacked Gov. Chris Sununu for being a critic. “Instead of offering Granite Staters a plan to increase New Hampshire’s lagging vaccination rate, Chris Sununu is more focused on scoring political points with Mitch McConnell and national Republicans,” Buckley said.
Meanwhile, the headline at The Washington Post is, “Unions split on vaccine mandates, complicating Biden push.”
“Some unions representing federal workers already objected to his push for inoculation among the U.S. government workforce, saying such matters involving new workplace requirements and discipline need to be negotiated at the bargaining table.”
One union that does support government-mandated vaccines, regardless of previous union contracts or agreements, is the AFL-CIO. “The resurgence of COVID-19 requires swift and immediate action, and we commend President Biden for taking additional steps to help put an end to this crisis. Everyone should be vaccinated—as one step in stopping the pandemic,” AFL-CIO President Liz Shuler said in a statement.
Interestingly, the New Hampshire AFL-CIO has said…nothing. They’ve declined to respond to repeated requests for comment, though it did post Shuler’s statement on its Facebook page.
The American Federation of Government Employees, which is affiliated with the AFL-CIO, released a statement blasting the Biden administration.
“Since the vaccines first became widely available, we have strongly encouraged all our members to take one of the several safe, effective vaccines against COVID-19. The data are clear. Getting vaccinated isn’t just the best way for us to end this pandemic, it is the best way for us to protect each other in the workplace,” said American Federation of Government Employees, AFL-CIO National President Everett Kelley.
“Likewise, since President Biden made his first major announcement about changing COVID-19 protocols for the federal workforce in response to the surging Delta variant, we have said that changes like this should be negotiated with our bargaining units where appropriate. Put simply, workers deserve a voice in their working conditions.
“Neither of these positions has changed. We expect to bargain over this change prior to implementation, and we urge everyone who is able to get vaccinated as soon as they can do so.”
Julia Pollak, labor economist at ZipRecruiter, told NBC News that, while unions represent just six percent of private-sector workers, their leadership is valued by a large segment of the working population.
“For many members, their union is more important now than it ever has been,” Pollak said. Which is why, she says, Biden’s approach is so politically risky.
“The president’s speech was very strident. It is a position that’s at odds with the natural constituency, and it will be interesting to see how it shakes out,” Pollak said. “It’s a very interesting tension.”
As of Sunday night, Sen. Jeanne Shaheen was the only member of the New Hampshire congressional delegation to say anything publicly regarding the mandate.