By PAULA TRACY, InDepthNH.org
CONCORD – On Thursday, President Joe Biden announced emergency rules related to the ongoing coronavirus pandemic as the Delta variant of the virus increases and vaccination rates stagnate. The reaction was swift and divided along party lines in New Hampshire.
On Friday, Republican Gov. Chris Sununu and others responded to the emergency rules.
“Yesterday’s actions by the Biden Administration are another example of saying one thing, then doing another and creating instability and mistrust at a time when the American people need serious leadership,” said Sununu.
Among the rules are requirements that employers offer paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and a requirement that all employers with more than 100 employees make sure their workers are vaccinated or tested weekly, which will apply to about 100 million American workers. Federal workers and healthcare staff at Medicaid and Medicare hospitals and other settings must also be vaccinated.
Sununu noted that New Hampshire’s workforce, most especially in health care, is at a critical level of staffing and stated, “unilateral mandates by the federal government could lead to shortages in multiple areas that are already at grave risk.”
Sununu also stated, “The vaccine is safe and we will continue to encourage Granite Staters to talk with their doctor or pharmacist to feel comfortable about their choice to receive the COVID vaccine.”
The Washington Post said some Republican governors from Texas to Missouri and Georgia threatened to sue. Texas Gov. Greg Abbott called the mandates “an assault on private businesses” and said the state is “already working to halt this power grab,” the Post reported.
The Post also reported that the fine for people who don’t wear masks on planes, trains and other forms of public transit will pay higher fines with first-time offenders facing a potential fine of $500 to $1,000 and second-time offenders up to $1,000 to $3,000 as of Friday.
Other leading Republicans in New Hampshire blasted Biden’s approach calling it unconstitutional while Democrats defended the need for the vaccination requirements.
Senate President Chuck Morse, R-Salem said, “This is a broad overreach of the President’s authority, and he should not be dictating these decisions to New Hampshire businesses. I will continue to encourage Granite Staters to get vaccinated while opposing government mandates. The Washington way is not the New Hampshire way, and they should stay out of our way.”
Senate Democrats, however, commended Biden for his continued commitment to public safety.
Senate Democratic Leader Donna Soucy, D-Manchester, and Senator Tom Sherman, D-Rye, a physician issued this statement:
“We applaud President Biden’s continued commitment to public health and safety. Across the country, hospitals and other health care facilities are being pushed to their physical and staffing limits as they combat the impact of COVID-19. The safe and effective COVID-19 vaccines are the key to keeping New Hampshire’s people and economy healthy, getting the virus under control, and protecting our most vulnerable citizens. We commend President Biden for taking this step and continue to encourage all eligible individuals to get vaccinated.”
House Speaker Sherman Packard, R-Londonderry, said in a statement: “Rules for NH businesses should originate in New Hampshire. We believe in letting private businesses make their own decisions. This latest executive order coming out of Washington, D.C. is another example of federal overreach. The New Hampshire House will continue to work hard to protect our citizens and Main Street businesses from the insanity that has taken over the Biden administration.”
House Majority Leader Jason Osborne said, “The facts are clear, Joe Biden lied. He lied that he had a plan to shut down the coronavirus and he lied that he wouldn’t demand that the vaccine be mandatory. These desperate and unconstitutional actions are just another failure in a long list of disasters that the Biden Administration owns.”