After Governors Ron DeSantis and Greg Abbott banned vaccine mandates for private businesses in Florida and Texas respectively, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said that they are "putting politics ahead of public health" and that these politics "prevent the saving of lives."
She was asked about Texas "opposing the order for vaccine mandates," and if "there a risk that kind of DOJ efforts, essentially get tied up in litigation rather than having the immediate effects."
"These requirements are promulgated by federal law," Psaki said. "So, when the President announced his vaccine mandates for businesses that, of course were waiting on OSHA regulations for as a next step, that was pursuant to federal law and the implementation of federal law, because it's an executive order.
"So, our intention is to implement, and continue to work to implement these requirements across the country including in the states where there are attempts to oppose them.
"I will say since you gave me the opportunity," she continued, "Governor Abbott's executive order banning mandates, and I would also note announcement by Governor DeSantis this morning, essentially banning the implementation of mandates, fit a familiar pattern that we've seen of putting politics out of public health."
She listed off the COVID casualty numbers, saying that "over 700,000 American lives have been lost due to COVID-19, including more than 56,000 in Florida and over 68,000 in Texas, and every leader should be focused on supporting efforts to save lives and the pandemic.
"Why would you be taking steps that prevents the saving of lives that make it more difficult to to save lives in across the country or in any state?" She asked rhetorically, noting that there are vaccine mandates for students for the MMR vaccine, preventing deadly childhood illnesses of measles, mumps, and rubella. She also said there were vaccine mandates for polio.
"So these decisions," she said, "put these two leaders out of step with both longtime requirements, a history of vaccine mandates but also many business leaders in their states and many businesses that are based in their states, including Disney and American Airlines."
"Bottom line," she concluded, "is we're going to continue to implement the law, which the President of the United States has the ability, the authority, the legal authority to do, and we are going to continue to work to get more people vaccinated, to get out of this pandemic, the President will use every lever at his disposal to do that."
Psaki was asked again about vaccine mandates, and why governors would uphold their citizens rights over the president's executive order, she said bluntly that it was "politics."
"What is the President's message to businesses in Texas? You mentioned several of them who are based there, when it comes to what the federal guidance is now, and now with this big executive order. What would the President say to those companies as they're determining what they should be doing right now for the vaccine mandates?"
"Well, we know that federal law overrides state law," Psaki said. "I would note that earlier when we put out our guidance on the President's announcement about mandate several weeks ago, it made clear that, again as I said earlier, requirements are promulgated pursuant to federal law and supersede any contrary state or local law or ordinance. Additionally, nothing in this guidance excuses non-compliance with any applicable state law or municipal ordinance, we put out guidance several weeks ago conveying that clearly.
"But fundamentally, beyond the legal aspect which is unquestionable in our view," she went on. "The question for any business leader is, what do you want to do to save more lives and your companies? How are you going to create a workforce where people feel safe to go into their workplaces? What is fundamentally in the interests of your businesses over the long term? And we've seen from economist after economist, and frankly many business leaders who have already worked to implement mandates that implementing these mandates creates certainty, it reduces the number of people who are out of work sick, and worse. And that is good ultimately for businesses, it's good for the economy but also saving lives is something fundamentally business leaders can do by continuing to work to implement these mandates.
"But I would note that a lot of these businesses are doing them on their own to date we're still, OSHA in terms of the federal level, the OSHA requirements are the next step which we expect to have soon."
"Clearly, Governor Abbott knows that federal rules supersede state rules so why do you think he did this?
"Politics," Psaki said.
"Elaborate?" the reporter asked.
"Well, I think it's pretty clear," Psaki went on, "when you make a choice that's against all public health information and data out there, that it's not based on what is in the interests of the people you are governing. It's perhaps, in the interest of your own politics."