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Biden vaccine mandate: 16 GOP senators request special session

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — More than one dozen Republican state senators signed a letter to the governor Friday requesting a special session to curtail the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate. 

“This is the time to fight back against ‘federal power grabs and government overreach that threatens to limit our freedoms,’” the letter said, quoting Gov. Mike Parson’s previous comments about the vaccine mandate. 

The request was signed by Sens. Jason Bean, Mike Bernskoetter, Rick Brattin, Eric Burlison, Bill Eigel, Karla Eslinger, Elaine Gannon, Denny Hoskins, Andrew Koenig, Tony Luetkemeyer Mike Moon, Cindy O’Laughlin, Bob Onder, Holly Rehder, Jeanie Riddle, and Bill White. 

President Joe Biden on Thursday unveiled plans for employers with at least 100 workers to require employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit weekly negative test results — a move expected to encompass about 80 million people. In addition, all federal employees and contractors doing business with the federal government will need to be vaccinated — forgoing the weekly testing option. 

In a news release Friday evening, the Governor’s Office promised a legal fight against the vaccine mandate, noting Parson has spoken with GOP leadership in the legislature and the Attorney General’s Office. 

“This assault on individual liberty and free enterprise is a poorly executed attempt by the Biden administration to reset after its disastrous withdrawal from Afghanistan,” Parson said. “With our southern border in crisis and as we are experiencing out-of-control inflation, President Biden is desperate to divert attention from his failures. However, Missouri will not be a pawn in this publicity stunt that seeks to force Missourians to disclose private health care decisions and dictate private business operations.”

However, some conservatives in both chambers have upped the pressure for a special session to address the mandates. 

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“Nowhere in the Constitution does it give the president the power to force private citizens to vaccinate,” Brattin said. “If we don’t act, hundreds of thousands of Missourians will be affected and a dangerous precedent will be set. The federal government has no power to do this, and it’s our job as the elected voice of the people of Missouri to put our foot down and tell the president this isn’t going to happen in our state and our country.” 

Hough, one of the Republican senators who didn’t sign onto the special session request, said his constituents are concerned about the ramifications of the mandate, but he believes the best “remedy” is in court rather than a special session. 

“Everyone’s lives and businesses are different. I believe trying to do a ‘one-size-fits-all’ regulation will grow government and take away personal liberties,” Hough said. “I believe the best course of action is to pursue a legal remedy through the Attorney General’s Office.” 

Also notably missing from the request were Senate President Pro Tem Dave Schatz and Majority Floor Leader Caleb Rowden. 

“As a small business owner who would be subjugated to President Biden’s unconstitutional mandate, I, nor the Missouri Senate, will stand idly by and allow this inexcusable power grab to harm Missourians,” Schatz said in the news release from the Governor’s Office. “What the Biden administration is attempting to do will only worsen the workforce shortages businesses across the country are facing and is an absolute affront to our American freedoms.”

Biden addressed the pushback from Republican governors Friday, telling reporters: “I am so disappointed that particularly some Republican governors have been so cavalier with the health of these kids, so cavalier with the health of their communities.”

In Missouri, 57 people have died in the past seven days from COVID-19 with more than 10,400 positive cases identified during the last week. At least 54 percent of Missourians who meet the age requirement for the vaccine are fully inoculated. Nearly 78 percent of Missourians who are over the age of 65 are fully vaccinated, according to data from the state.