GOP Lawmakers Push Anti-Vaccine Amendments in Spending Package

  • Several would ban vaccine requirements through funding
  • Effort comes as GOP leadership encourages vaccinations

Several House Republicans are attempting to add Covid-related provisions to a must-pass federal spending bill that contrast with party leaders’ recent efforts to encourage vaccinations.

The roughly dozen measures proposed to be included in a seven-bill spending package (H.R. 4502) for fiscal 2022 set for a vote this week include prohibitions on federal funding for schools with a vaccine mandate, vaccine lotteries, and door-to-door efforts to provide information about the Covid-19 vaccine, among other things. They also included ending funding for the World Health Organization.

The amendments are likely to be rejected in a Rules Committee meeting Monday, before the bill even comes to the floor. But the messaging runs counter to the recent vocal encouragement of vaccines by some of their colleagues.

Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) called vaccines safe and effective last week after getting his first dose. He also appeared with Conference Chair Elise Stefanik (R-N.Y.) and the House GOP Doctors Caucus to promote the vaccine.

Photo by Dylan Hollingsworth/Bloomberg
Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) speaks during the Conservative Political Action Conference (CPAC) gathering titled “America UnCanceled” in Dallas on July 10.

Many of the lawmakers offering the amendments are members of the House Freedom Caucus. Rep. Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) offered four amendments on vaccines, including blocking any federal funds from going to vaccine passports and banning a requirement for members of the Armed Services to receive the vaccine.

Boebert said in a statement she isn’t anti-vaccine, but is “anti using tax dollars to pressure Americans to get a vaccine or to pressure them to disclose confidential medical records.”

Other amendments offered include one from Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) would essentially prevent requiring lawmakers and staff to wear masks “in public gatherings or meetings.” Rep. Andy Biggs (R-Ariz.) proposed ensuring that proof of vaccination isn’t needed to access federal services.

Photo by Tom Brenner/Bloomberg
House Minority Whip Steve Scalise (R-La.) speaks during a news conference with the GOP Doctors Caucus outside the Capitol on July 22.

Delta Dilemma

While vaccine mandates haven’t taken place on a national scale, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the administration is supportive of local mandates. The Veterans Affairs Department announced Monday it will require its front-line health care workers to be vaccinated.

The push against vaccine mandates comes as the number of Covid-19 cases in the U.S. have begun to rise with the highly transmissible delta variant. Lawmakers have begun donning masks again after several vaccinated staffers tested positive for Covid-19, according to Congress’ attending physician.

Republican Reps. Clay Higgins(R-La.) and Vern Buchanan (R-Fla.) announced in the past week they tested positive for the coronavirus. Buchanan was vaccinated, while Higgins hasn’t said if he was vaccinated.

To contact the reporter on this story: Emily Wilkins in Washington at ewilkins@bgov.com

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Kyle Trygstad at ktrygstad@bgov.com; Bennett Roth at broth@bgov.com

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