Republicans cheer new Texas vaccine mandate ban even as it threatens businesses

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Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has barred private companies from requiring employees or customers to get COVID-19 vaccines.

Republicans are celebrating a new executive order from Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, which bans all private companies in the state from requiring that their employees or customers receive the COVID-19 vaccine — even if the company has already implemented vaccine requirements.

"Texas continues to be the FREEST state in the country," Rep. Ronny Jackson (R-TX), who served as the White House physician under multiple presidents before being elected to Congress, tweeted in response to Abbott's order. "God Bless the GREAT State of Texas!"

Other Republicans echoed Jackson's sentiments.

"It is so important that Texas do this," Rep. Chip Roy (R-TX) tweeted of Abbott's order. "Hey #TXLege [Texas Legislature] - you must stand with @GovAbbott and with Texans who are having their livelihoods threatened by corporate and federal government tyrants. #DoNotComply #FreedomNotMandates #HealthcareFreedom."

"Governor Abbott did what he had to do in order to protect Texas businesses," Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-TX) said on Fox News Tuesday morning.

Rep. Warren Davidson of Ohio implored his own Republican governor to issue the same ban, tweeting, "This is the sort of leadership Ohio needs. Good governments defend freedom."

Abbott announced the vaccine mandate ban even though his state's department of health is urging residents to get the vaccine, which data shows is safe and effective at preventing COVID-19 transmission, hospitalization, and death.

Abbott said in his executive order that while the COVID-19 vaccine is "strongly encouraged," mandates are "yet another instance of federal overreach."

According to the Texas Department of State Health Services, Texas public schools already require that all students be vaccinated against polio; measles, mumps, and rubella; diphtheria, tetanus, and pertussis; hepatitis A and B; varicella; and meningococcal disease.

Just 52% of Texas residents are fully vaccinated, a percentage that lags far behind those of highly vaccinated states in the Northeast and on the West Coast. And the state just experienced another deadly wave of the virus, bringing the total number of people who have died of COVID-19 in Texas to 68,057, according to data from the New York Times.

Major companies based in Texas have already mandated the COVID-19 vaccine for their employees. They include American Airlines, which is headquartered in the Lone Star State and is one of the largest employers in Texas, as well as many large hospital systems.

A federal judge in Texas ruled in June that the Houston Methodist hospital system in Texas could require its employees to be vaccinated, after some workers sued to block the vaccination rule. Houston Methodist said that it was the first hospital system in the country to require the vaccine and that getting vaccinated was part of the "duty as health care professionals to do no harm and protect the safety of all of us — our colleagues, our patients and our society."

Experts say Abbott's ban on vaccine mandates likely violates the supremacy clause in Article 6 of the U.S. Constitution, which says that federal law trumps state law.

The Biden administration already announced vaccine mandates for health care workers whose employers receive Medicare or Medicaid reimbursements, as well as for any contractors that do business with the federal government.

It's unclear whether Abbott's order will be quickly challenged in court.

But opposing vaccine mandates has become the cause du jour for GOP politicians.

Florida GOP Gov. Ron DeSantis signed a similar executive order in Florida. But after a cruise line sued to be able to require passengers to provide proof of vaccination, a federal judge granted a temporary injunction halting enforcement of the order.

Published with permission of The American Independent Foundation.