The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which President Biden tasked with developing a rule to force businesses with 100 employees or more to mandate coronavirus vaccines or implement testing requirements, has yet to release the rule roughly three weeks after the president’s announcement. What is more, the Biden administration has been unable to provide a timeline on when it will be released.
Biden delivered a divisive speech on the Chinese coronavirus on September 9, in which he sharply scolded unvaccinated Americans and announced sweeping vaccine mandates.
“We’ve been patient, but our patience is wearing thin. And your refusal has cost all of us,” he said, announcing the forthcoming federal mandate. Biden said:
So, tonight, I’m announcing that the Department of Labor is developing an emergency rule to require all employers with 100 or more employees, that together employ over 80 million workers, to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative test at least once a week.
This raised an outcry from critics who argued the move is outside of his purview. The announcement triggered 24 Republican attorneys general to threaten legal action against the administration’s rule — which they said is illegal in nature — should the administration charge forward.
However, roughly three weeks later, OSHA has yet to release a draft of the rule, and the White House has been unable to provide a timeline on when it will come.
“You had said it [OSHA rule] would be weeks just now, when it was announced a few weeks ago it was going to take a few weeks, so are you signaling a delay of any kind with that rule?” a reporter asked White House press secretary Jen Psaki on Thursday.
“We never gave an exact timeline so maybe we should have been more specific at the time. Obviously, it takes time and we want to make sure when we put these out they are clear and they provide guidance necessary to businesses,” Psaki said.
“I can’t give you a timeline. OSHA’s working on them but obviously, hopefully, we’ll know more in the coming weeks,” she added.
This week, Time reported tension between the White House and Labor Department officials over Biden’s demands:
“It’s been a very frustrating nine months for OSHA,” says Former Deputy Assistant Secretary of Labor for OSHA Jordan Barab, referencing a series of instructions from the Biden Administration, including the most recent plan for a vaccine and testing mandate. “This whole thing was basically thought up in the White House.”
“OSHA staff and leaders and DOL staff and leaders would prefer a more comprehensive standard,” Barab says. “I think there is a lot of frustration that this is limited exclusively to just vaccinations or testing. The mitigation measures are totally absent.”
According to Time, “current OSHA staff are not authorized to speak on the record about ongoing rule-making” and “the White House directed questions to DOL.” A DOL spokesperson simply said OSHA is “working expeditiously on the ETS, which will provide protections for workers and support for employers throughout the country, using tools we know are safe and effective.” But again, no specific date for the release of the rule has been issued.
Even so, Republican politicians are taking preemptive action. On Thursday, Republican Reps. Claudia Tenney (R-NY) and Jim Banks (R-IN) introduced the Health Freedom For All Act, which according to a press release would “clarify that under existing law the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) does not have the authority to implement rules requiring Americans to undergo COVID-19 vaccinations or testing.”