In a Wednesday speech on the Senate floor, Sen. Rick Scott (R-Fla.), joined by Sens. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) and Mike Lee (R-Utah), introduced legislation that would bar the Biden administration from implementing vaccine passports requirements for interstate travel.
Scott began by praising the Trump administration for its quick development of the CCP (Chinese Communist Party) virus vaccine, which he noted has been very successful. But, he continued, “government should not issue [mandates]” as President Joe Biden has done.
As localities and states join the federal government in issuing various vaccine mandates and vaccine passport requirements, Scott said that “Americans are sick and tired of the government telling them what to do. And the American people are more than capable of making the right decision to protect them, their family, and their neighbors.”
Vaccine Cards for Interstate Travel ‘Reeks Of A Power Grab’: Scott
Scott then turned to the main thrust of his speech.
“Travel is critical to getting our economy fully reopened,” Scott said, “America’s truckers, shippers, pilots, and delivery men and women play an important role in delivering the goods needed to keep our economy going.”
Accordingly, Scott’s bill, the Prevent Unconstitutional Vaccine Mandates for Interstate Commerce Act, would prohibit several federal agencies involved in interstate commerce and travel from requiring proof of vaccination: The Department of Transportation, which oversees the Federal Aviation Administration, the National Railroad Passenger Corporation (Amtrak), the Surface Transportation Board, the Transportation Security Administration, the National Transportation Safety Board, the Federal Maritime Commission, and the Department of Commerce.
Though the president has made no public statements about plans to require vaccine passports for interstate travel, Scott indicated that some reports he had heard indicated just such a plan. The proposal “reeks of a power grab,” he said.
“The federal government has no business imposing vaccine mandates on our people and our hardworking businesses,” Scott commented.
Scott also pointed to previous litigation of similar proposals: “The Supreme Court has already ruled that you cannot be forced to purchase insurance under the commerce clause. Why would president Biden think he could do so with a vaccine mandate?”
Scott is here referencing a case concerning former President Barack Obama’s controversial Affordable Care Act (Obamacare). One of the bill’s most controversial clauses, the individual mandate, required citizens to purchase health insurance or pay a fine to the federal government. The administration justified this proposal under the commerce clause of the Constitution, which gives the federal government the power to regulate interstate commerce. The Supreme Court ruled that this was not an acceptable argument, but upheld the individual mandate as a tax rather than as a fine.
Scott also noted hypocrisy from Biden over vaccine policy. “In December, President Biden promised, promised,” he emphasized, “he would not require Americans to be vaccinated or require that they carry vaccine passports.” With his mandate, Scott said, “Biden has broken that promise.”
His bill, he continued, would bar Biden from regulating interstate travel and “protect the rights of citizens as laid out in our Constitution.”
Biden “wants to impose his view of health on every American citizen,” Scott said. “I’m here to say I won’t stand for it.”
Ron Johnson, who co-sponsored the legislation, also said that he doesn’t think that proponents of regulating vaccination status for interstate travel “have thought through how damaging [it] would be to our economy.” Lee, another co-sponsor, criticized the “strong-arm executive tactics used by President Biden” since he has come into office.
Rep. Dan Crenshaw (R-Texas) is introducing the same bill to the House of Representatives.
However, Democrats have already demonstrated significant unity with Biden on vaccine mandates.
According to Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.), every member of the Democratic caucus in Congress has been vaccinated. Sen. Maria Cantwell (D-Wash.) immediately rebuked Scott’s legislation, defending vaccine passports being required where government agencies consider the move necessary. On Sept. 22, Sen. Dick Durbin (D-Ill.) made an impassioned speech defending Biden’s vaccine mandate, accusing Republican opponents of “exalting liberty over life.”
Even if Republicans could garner support for the bill in the lower chamber, it would face a far sharper challenge in the Senate, where Democrats could block debate on the bill. To overcome this challenge, Republicans would have to be entirely on board with Scott’s bill and would need at least ten Democrats to join them.
Thus far, no measures to require vaccine passports for interstate travel have been seriously put forward by the Biden administration.