House Republicans Demand More Information on Contractor Vaccine Mandate
Lawmakers also are seeking information on job losses and any impact on supply chains.
House Republicans want more information from the Biden administration on the impact of the vaccine mandate on federal contractors. They also are raising concerns—without evidence—that the mandate could be expanded to grantees, despite the White House explicitly stating that the mandates did not apply to grantees in an executive order issued on September 9.
Nineteen House Republicans, including the ranking members on the House Oversight and Reform Committee, sent a letter to the heads of the General Services Administration, Defense Department and Office of Management and Budget on Wednesday ahead of the December 8 deadline for millions of employees of federal contractors to be vaccinated. The letter, shared exclusively with Government Executive prior to public release, said, “With households still recovering from the economic shutdown, it is not prudent to require employees of federal contractors and federal grantees to be vaccinated or lose their jobs.” Due to the mandate, “federal services such as defense, border security, and other critical sectors supported by federal contractors could be affected.” They added that the “draconian” executive order could worsen the supply chain crisis, which comes as the holiday season is approaching.
The letter is similar to one sent by House GOP leaders to GSA, OMB and Office of Personnel Management last week.
“Any potential expansion of this vaccine mandate would have significant consequences,” said a Republican committee aide, explaining why lawmakers aren’t mollified by the September EO that said vaccine mandates do not apply to grantees—they want more explicit assurances from the White House that mandates won’t ever be extended to grantees.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The lawmakers want, by November 10, all documents and communications dating back to January 20, 2021, on possibly expanding the vaccine mandate to grantees and their employees; any decisions to evaluate or not evaluate the impact of the mandate on agency, contractor and grantee missions, supply chain and job or benefits losses; and decisions on relaxing the mandate due to declining COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths.
During the COVID-19 briefing last week, Jeff Zients, White House coronavirus response coordinator, said the vaccine mandate for federal employees and contractors “will not cause disruption” to the economy or supply chain. He also said the deadlines “are not cliffs” because of the administration’s progressive discipline policy for those who do not get vaccinated and aren’t granted an exemption.
The administration’s Safer Federal Workforce Task Force released new guidance on Monday that says covered contractors should “determine the appropriate means of enforcement” for employees who do not get vaccinated and gave some suggestions for actions to take.
Separately, at least 20 states have filed lawsuits against the administration over vaccine mandates.
Government Executive reached out to the Democrats on the House Oversight and Reform Committee for comment.