US Senate News:
Source: United States Senator for Oklahoma James Lankford
CLICK HERE to watch Lankford’s remarks on YouTube.
WASHINGTON, DC – Senator James Lankford (R-OK) today brought Oklahomans’ personal experiences grappling with President Biden’s harmful vaccine mandates that have negatively impacted federal employees, federal contractors, members of our military, health care workers, and companies with 100 or more employees. Yesterday, Lankford was glad to see that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suspended implementation and enforcement of the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for private employers after a ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit blocked the measure last week.
Lankford joined Senator Mike Braun (R-IN) and all 48 of their Republican Senate colleagues to file a formal challenge against President Biden’s vaccine mandate under the Congressional Review Act (CRA), which is the official process for Congress to eliminate an Executive Branch rule. For several months, Lankford has pushed back on Biden’s vaccine mandates targeting federal employees, contractors, and the military. Lankford tried to force a vote on his Stop Vaccine Mandate Act, which was blocked by Democrats. Lankford introduced the Stop Vaccine Mandates Act to repeal President Biden’s Executive Order that mandates vaccines for federal employees and federal contractors.
Lankford has been vocal about President Biden’s Executive Order. He sent a letter to President Biden outlining his concerns with the vaccine mandates and has stood firmly with Oklahoma service members, health care workers, federal employees, and private-sector workers who have chosen so far not to be vaccinated.
Lankford immediately opposed Biden’s vaccine mandate when it was announced in early September. Lankford received the vaccine and continues to encourage Oklahomans to get the vaccine. But he does not believe anyone should be forced to choose between their job and getting the COVID-19 vaccine. Lankford penned an op-ed on how Biden’s vaccine mandate and insistence that everyone should just “do what he says” looks more like something from the communist Chinese government or Putin’s Russia, not the United States.
On September 9, President Biden told the American people that he was losing patience with them and they need to get vaccinated right now. He laid down a series of executive orders on federal employees, on federal contractors, on companies that had, individuals that had 100 employees or more, on individuals that worked in any health care related, anything that dealt with Medicare or Medicaid. It reached out to millions of people. He set a date that was within three months, knowing full well it would take months to actually write the rule and it would create chaos across the country. I believe that was the purpose in writing that deadline.
Well, mission accomplished. It has created chaos across our country and across lots of families. What is the situation right now in America dealing with COVID? We’re on the backside of our second peak. We’ve seen hundreds of thousands of people lose their lives to COVID. We’ve seen hospitals fill, get back to order, fill again, get back to order. But in the meantime, three vaccines have been developed, multiple different treatments have been developed, a multitude of tests have been developed, which has been the primary issue that we have every year with the flu. We don’t panic year after year on the flu because we have testing, we have treatment, we have vaccines. We now have for COVID, testing, treatment, and vaccines. It becomes much more manageable.
In the meantime right at 80 percent of all Americans who are 12 years old or over have already had at least one dose of one of the vaccines. Let me run that past you again. 80 percent of Americans have had at least one dose of one of the three vaccines, of those 12 years old or older. About 45 million Americans have recovered from COVID. Had it, tested positive, and have recovered. The vast majority of Americans by far—like not even close—the vast majority of Americans have been vaccinated or have recovered from COVID or both. But is the Administration okay with that? No, they’re not.
The Administration has laid down their own law to say if Americans do not get the vaccine, those 20 percent left that haven’t got the vaccine that are 12 years old or older, if they don’t get the vaccine, this Administration is going to find some way for them to lose their job, which for many people will also mean lose their insurance, lose their pension, and sometimes lose their home. But the President’s response is, ‘I don’t care. Go get the shot. That’s what I want you to do.’ Well, Mr. President, mission accomplished.
Let me tell you a story of an individual that works in the eastern part of my state, who works for one of those companies that’s 100 people or more. He didn’t want to have the vaccine. The reason is not even important. But he said he didn’t want to take the vaccine. So what happened in his company of 100 or more? They fired him a couple of weeks ago. You’re welcome, Mr. President. Thanks for firing him.
Oh, it gets better. He lost his house because he couldn’t pay the mortgage. And this adult man has now moved in with his family while he tries to figure out what happens next for him. You know why? Because the President said he was losing patience, and he didn’t care if this guy lost his house, lost his job, lost his insurance. The President was just saying, ‘Go get it or else.’
Well, thanks. Right before Thanksgiving, he’s experiencing the ‘or else.’
One of my constituents’ husband is facing termination. He’s from another one of those large companies. He’s worked for them for 30 years. He has secret clearance from the DOD, and his doctor gave him an exemption because his cardiac numbers fluctuate so much, and he’s one of those high-risk individuals for blood clots, which can be a side effect of the vaccines. So his doctor has encouraged him not to take the vaccine. So he went in to his job, he asked for the exemption, the medical exemption, and he was given two forms to sign. The first of the forms said he had to agree to take the vaccination or he would lose his job. The second form agreed that if he took the vaccination, he would not sue the company if he had a negative reaction.
So here’s a man who has to choose between taking the vaccine, knowing that his doctor has told him not to do it. And if he does take it, if he has a negative reaction, the company wants to be held harmless for it, and he’s got to sign a document saying the company will be held harmless for it, or lose his job. Do you know why? Because President Biden said he was losing patience. So this family gets to sit around over thanksgiving not talking about football, but talking about whether he’s going to lose his job or possibly have a blood clot in the hospital. Which would you like to have that conversation on over Thanksgiving?
There’s a company who does electrical engineering that also has one of those federal contracts they talk about. Some of the employees don’t do the federal contracting. They work for other issues. Fifty people of the 250 in the company have said they don’t want to take the vaccine, and so they’re in the process of losing their jobs, and that company will not be able to fulfill its federal contract because hiring 50 more electricians is not that simple right now with the economy that we’re currently in.
A constituent told us that her employer is going to lay her off on December 8 because she hasn’t had the vaccine yet. So she will spend Thanksgiving discussing this with her family as she approaches the time where she’s about to be laid off. She works in one of those companies that has a federal contract. She reached out to her primary care doctor who is at the VA by the way, and the VA instructed her that they’re not writing exemptions for medical exemptions. She’s on her own. Why? Because the President’s losing patience, and he’s decided he’s going to throw all of these families in chaos or they’re going to lose their job because he said so.
Why have I been fighting this mandate since September 9, when the President actually announced it? Because it was obvious to me what was coming. It was this. Everyone could see it apparently but the White House.
Americans are stubborn people. That’s what’s made us the most prosperous freest people in the world. We’re entrepreneurs. We take risks. We understand the consequences for our risks. But we also go do because we can. We’re Americans. And now the President of the United States has announced, I don’t care. You’re going to get this or else. So what’s the real effect of this? All of this chaos? This is just part of it. There’s a whole lot more.
How about EMS folks that are in rural Oklahoma that are having a hard time actually keeping some of their drivers and folks in because they’ve chosen not to take the vaccine. What happens in three weeks from now when people get sick at their house or have a heart attack and EMS Can’t respond because those folks got fired from their jobs because the president said I’m losing patience. What happens? I’ll tell you what happens. People die, other families are going to struggle through this process as they’re figuring out where they’re going to work because they’ve lost their career because the President said I’ve lost patience with you.
Tell me this, for the person that’s the JAG officer in the military, works in the National Guard, and for whatever reason, whether it’s religious accommodation, medical accommodation, whatever it may be, they choose not to take this vaccine. When they get a dishonorable discharge, what happens to them? They lose their law license is what happens to them. They’re disbarred and they’re no longer practicing their profession.
What happens to the state trooper in Oklahoma that also serves on our National Guard? When they get dishonorably discharged they don’t just lose their military career, they lose their civilian career. What happens to the nurse or the doctor that serves with the National Guard? When they get drummed out, what happens? They lose their military career and their civilian career. That’s what happens. Do you know why? Because the President decided he was losing patience with the American people, and they have to do what he says to do. Not what they want to do. That’s why all this chaos is happening.
I heard from a constituent, 28 years of federal service—28 years of federal service. I’m not going to give the administration that they work in, but they work behind the scenes in an exceptionally important, exceptionally difficult task, serving their neighbors as a federal employee. She doesn’t want to retire, but she doesn’t want to take this vaccine either. You know what she’s doing? She’s retiring. And what’s going to happen in this agency in Oklahoma when they lose this cornerstone person at this agency? They will struggle to figure out what she did, how she did it. And people in Oklahoma will get less help in that agency because a long-term, vital civil servant is about to get run out of civil service because President Biden decided he lost patience with her.
That wasn’t in her civil service contract. That was never negotiated with any of the collective bargaining rights agreements. Never. There is no addition in any collective bargaining rights agreements for federal employees that they have to get a vaccine mandate if the President decides that they do. But he decided—that is President Biden decided—that he was going to take this on. And so she is going to be discussing over Thanksgiving what she’s going to do post retirement, wishing she could stay a little longer to build up a few more years, and thought she was going to be able to. But instead she got ran out because she and the President had a difference of opinion about a brand-new vaccine.
Now I’ve said to this group before several times, and I’ll say it again. I’ve had the vaccine. I encourage others to take the vaccine. Eighty percent of Americans who are 12 years old or older have had the vaccine. There are plenty of Americans that have had the vaccine, that support the vaccine but do not want their next door neighbor to get fired because they disagree on the vaccine. In fact, I don’t know a lot of people that do. I have met some that are just that heartless to be able to say I don’t care what you think. I want to feel better, forcing you to go get the vaccine. I met some of those folks. I don’t meet many of them. Most say, I freely made the decision, and they should be table to freely make the decision as well. That’s not where the President is and that’s not where many of my Democratic colleagues are.
We have brought an end to the vaccine mandate to multiple committees over multiple places over the last several months and it gets knocked down every time. Just this week we filed a congressional review act dealing with the OSHA piece, we have another one coming dealing with all of those on CMS to make a simple statement, we have got to stop this vaccine mandate. It is causing chaos in our families, it is causing chaos in our economy, and anyone who doesn’t think it is, is not talking to people at home.
So we’ll bring this in the next 18 days to the floor of this senate and we will force a vote to it and put everyone on record, do you stand with the American people that strongly affirm the vaccine but strongly oppose the mandate or will you be one to say, ‘Don’t care, I stand with the President? I’m losing patience with people, this 20 percent that hasn’t done the vaccine, I’m losing patience with them, and I’m going to force them as well,’ because that decision is coming to every single person in this body.
This could be turned off right now, and one section of it already is turned off. If the Fifth Circuit Court reached in on the issue of private employers and said that this was way overly broad of the President. No kidding, that it was unconstitutional for the President to reach into companies and to say, ‘I don’t care who it is, how important they are to the company. If you don’t make them do the vaccine, you have to fire them.’
The Fifth Circuit said you cannot do that. Thank you, Fifth Circuit, for finally joining in on that. OSHA has now said they are not going to enforce that, but there’s lots of other companies that have done it anyway. And I will tell you for this individual in eastern Oklahoma that’s already been fired and lost his house, it’s too late for him for suddenly the Biden team to say, ‘Just kidding, we’re going to pull back.’ His life has already been wrecked by you.
What else has been happening? I reached out to multiple different agencies. By the way, the federal mandate is next week to be able to have it done. When I talked to leaders of agencies of multiple different departments across town, none of them seem to know how many of their employees have been vaccinated yet. None of them. They all say, ‘We think it’s quite a few.’ I say, ‘How many have been vaccinated?’ We’ve had an x number who reported to us, but they don’t seem to know. It’s so chaotic that the federal unions have finally stepped in—finally.
I have been shocked at how slow they were to step up for this, they have asked the President for an extension to say don’t make the extension next week, give people more time. People are sitting around thanksgiving deciding whether they are going to keep their job or not and if 10 percent to 20 percent of the workforce leaves, we’re in such chaos, we’ll never able to be finish serving people as we need to do across the federal government. What would I recommend? I had some very frank conversations with the EEOC. When I visited with the EEOC—they protect workers whether federal or private—when I talked to the EEOC, what I hear from them is they weren’t consulted through the process of developing this new vaccine mandate and all of the exemptions that should be in place.
Can I tell the workers in my state and the workers across the country a simple thing? If your employer will not accept your religious accommodation that you put in or your medical examination that you put in, if they do not accept those, you need to go to the EEOC and file a complaint because the EEOC has rules about termination that are inappropriate termination. And if individuals are being terminated from private companies, even if they are federal contractors or if they are federal employees, I encourage you to go to the EEOC and file a complaint if they are not hearing your medical accommodation or religious accommodation. That is your right as an American. When the President of the United States is running over your rights, you have every right to be table to appeal that personally. You don’t have to hire an attorney. You can file that complaint on your own to be able to make sure that your employer knows that you’re filing an EEOC complaint against them for inappropriate termination for not accepting your medical exemption and your religious accommodation.
Interestingly enough, when I approached the Office of Management and Budget about a month ago about how they would handle religious accommodation, they said it is not the business of federal workers to decide an individual’s faith, we’re going to accept that. But when the document came out, there is a six-part test whether you are religious enough to be able to turn down the vaccine. They literally created a six-part test that every supervisor can go through and check to determine if you’re religious enough to be able to turn this down.
This would be the first time that I know of that the federal government has actually reached into an entity, to individuals and said, we’re going to decide for you how religious you are. That’s how crazy this has become. I encourage you again, if individuals have said you’re not religious enough to be able to ask for this accommodation, go to the EEOC, file a complaint against your employer, whether it be a federal agency or whether it be a private entity and make sure they are well aware of what’s going on. Now, if you work at a federal agency, you have an appeals process at your agency. Go through that process. If you’re denied or not heard, you do have rights as an American, and I would encourage you to stand up for our rights as an American against unjust hiring and unjust firing in this process.
Let me read this last letter to you. As we have fought through this process and find every leverage point I can find for the people in my state to be able to make their own decisions, it has been difficult to be able to talk to people in the the struggles that they have. Let me read one. This gentleman wrote to me, ‘I retired after 20 years of active duty service to enjoy time with my family and enjoy the blessings of supreme peace that our country has beyond human measure. Now, many of our undaunted service members and veterans alike face unemployment because we refuse to take a vaccine. Some are being coerced into taking it because they can’t support their families while unemployed, the very people who risked their lives and the well-being of their children face persecution for a personal medical choice.’ His comment to me? ‘This is not American.’ I agree. That’s why we’re fighting this.
That’s why we’ll continue to be able to push this. That’s why we’re bringing a Congressional Review Act to put every single person in this body on record, do you support forcing people to take a vaccine or be fired or not? I do not. And I hope 99 other of my colleagues also do not.