While many prominent Republicans are blasting President Joe Biden over his vaccination order last week, the president tried to shine a light Wednesday on the many corporate executives who are in his corner.
What You Need To Know
- President Joe Biden met Wednesday with several business leaders to discuss his new executive order aimed at drumming up vaccination rates and ending the COVID-19 pandemic
- Among those in attendance were the heads of the Walt Disney Company, Microsoft, Columbia Sportswear and the Business Roundtable, which represents more than 200 companies
- The White House said it hoped the event would serve as a rallying cry and encourage other businesses to step up and their own vaccination requirements
- Biden last week announced that the Labor Department is working on an emergency rule that will require businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or pass a COVID-19 test at least once a week
Biden met with several business leaders to discuss his new executive order aimed at drumming up vaccination rates and ending the COVID-19 pandemic. Among those in attendance were the heads of the Walt Disney Company, Microsoft, Columbia Sportswear and the Business Roundtable, which represents more than 200 companies.
"Last week I made a six-point plan to defeat the pandemic based on science,” the president said at the start of the meeting at the Eisenhower Executive Office Building, part of the White House complex. “And vaccination is key to getting the pandemic under control and keeping the economy strong.
“Vaccinations mean fewer infections, hospitalizations and deaths, and in turn it means a stronger economy,” Biden told the gathered leaders. “I think everybody should join me today and I look forward to working together to beating this pandemic to keep our economy growing.”
"It's about beating a virus, and it's about saving lives,” he added. “That's what this is all about.”
Columbia Sportswear CEO Tim Boyle told The Washington Post that the Portland-based company has debated implementing a vaccine mandate, but hesitated until the Biden administration took this action.
"Now with the federal government stepping in, that’s where we really felt comfortable and immediately put out a similar message to our employees," Boyle told the Post.
The White House said it hoped the event would serve as a rallying cry and encourage other businesses to step up and their own vaccination requirements.
But many soon might not have a choice.
Biden last week announced that the Labor Department is working on an emergency rule that will require businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or pass a COVID-19 test at least once a week. He also mandated federal workers be vaccinated, taking away their testing option.
The requirements are expected to apply around to around 100 million employees nationwide, the White House said.
Biden is leaning on the stricter regulations to help increase lagging vaccination rates amid the country’s fourth COVID-19 wave, this time driven by the more highly contagious delta variant. As of Tuesday, 179.3 million Americans, or 54% of the population, had been fully vaccinated.
Meanwhile, the seven-day average for new infections was just under 140,000 as of Monday, down 11.6% over the past two weeks but still 11 times higher than in mid-June, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Also scheduled to attend Wednesday’s meeting were representatives from health insurer Kaiser Permanente, Children's Hospital of Philadelphia, Walgreens Boots Alliance, Molly Moon's Homemade Ice Cream and Louisiana State University. Everyone participating either has implemented their own vaccination strategy or has voiced support for Biden's announcement last week.
Numerous corporations, including Amtrak, Microsoft, United Airlines and Disney issued vaccine mandates for their workforces before Biden's announcement last week.
Biden also noted that Fox News, many of whose hosts have sharply criticized his policy, has required its employees to report their vaccination status and is moving to require testing for its unvaccinated staffers.
“The vaccine requirements work, and more companies are instituting them even Fox News is requiring it,” the president said. “I am not being facetious when I say that, but it’s interesting that they’ve stepped forward and done that as well.”
But there is resistance, especially among conservatives.
Republican National Committee Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel has called the new measures “unconstitutional.” A number of Republican governors, including in Georgia, North Dakota and South Carolina, have blasted the move as government overreach and vowed to fight the Biden administration in court.
“The American Dream has turned into a nightmare under President Biden and the radical Democrats,” South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster wrote on Twitter last week. “They have declared war against capitalism, thumbed their noses at the Constitution, and empowered our enemies abroad. … Rest assured, we will fight them to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.”
Rep. Dan Crenshaw, R-Texas, was also enraged.
“Are you people trying to start a full on revolt?” he tweeted just after the announcement. “Honestly what the hell is wrong with Democrats? Leave people the hell alone. This is insanity.”
Some union and industry group leaders have also voiced concerns about forcing workers to get vaccinated or putting businesses in the position to make them. Some fear the order could create or exacerbate existing worker shortages at companies.
“We don’t think it’s appropriate to make employers the vaccine police for their employees,” Kurt Bauer, president and CEO of Wisconsin Manufacturers and Commerce, told WTAQ radio in Green Bay on Monday.
Rick Murray, chairman of the government affairs committee at the Arizona Small Business Association, told The Washington Post, “This is really as far-reaching as government can get.”
“That’s really a free-enterprise decision that should be made by companies and not the government,” he added.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.