Republican-led resolution aims to block rule that would protect 84 million workers through COVID-19 vaccines and testing
Senator Murray: “Let’s get something straight: The big threat to our workforce and our economy is the virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and shuttered businesses, not the safety standard that will keep workers safe and businesses open.”
Senator Murray: “After all we have lost and all the hard work we have done to rebuild, we must not throw our economy, our communities, and American lives into jeopardy by sabotaging our pandemic response … But that’s exactly what this resolution would do.”
***WATCH SENATOR MURRAY’S FULL REMARKS HERE***
(WASHINGTON, D.C.) – Today, U.S. Senator Patty Murray (D-WA), Chair of the Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions (HELP) Committee, took to the Senate floor to slam Republicans’ dangerous political ploy to overturn the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) COVID-19 Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)—a key tool to protect workers, get more people vaccinated, help end the pandemic, and keep our economic recovery on track.
OSHA issued the workplace safety standard last month, protecting 84 million workers in private sector businesses with 100 or more employees—or over two-thirds of the private sector workforce. The standard provides flexibility for employers by allowing them to give workers the option of either getting vaccinated or undergoing weekly COVID testing, with unvaccinated workers also required to wear masks when in the workplace. The ETS also provides paid time off for workers to get vaccinated and recover from any side effects.
“This rule, which Republicans keep attacking, is saving lives. OSHA estimates it will help protect 84 million workers and prevent thousands of deaths and over 250,000 hospitalizations from COVID-19. And yet, Republicans are pushing to scrap it entirely, undermining that progress and putting American lives and livelihoods in danger,” said Senator Murray.
In her speech, Senator Murray made clear that getting everyone vaccinated is critical to saving lives, ending the pandemic, and continuing to rebuild the economy. She highlighted the tragic toll that COVID has taken on our workforce, how steps to protect workers could bring people back to the workforce, and the fact that businesses across the country are already implementing similar vaccine and testing requirements, with overwhelmingly successful results. She also reminded her colleagues that the United States has a long history of successfully using immunization requirements to fight viruses and that OSHA has a 50 year history of setting and enforcing safety standards that prevent workers from getting sick or injured on the job, including by responding to emergencies like COVID-19 that pose a “grave danger” to workers.
“We know the path forward to finally end this pandemic involves getting everyone vaccinated. We should all be working toward that goal, not against it,” continued Senator Murray. “Families are counting on us to lead our nation through this crisis—not back into it. After all we have lost, and all the hard work we have done to rebuild, we must not throw our economy, our communities, and American lives into jeopardy by sabotaging our pandemic response. When you are fighting a fire, you don’t just stop in the middle and turn off the water. But that’s exactly what this resolution would do. It would take away one of the most important tools we have given OSHA to protect workers, in the middle of a pandemic when we need it most. I urge my colleagues to vote no.”
Republicans’ S.J. Res. 29 is a Congressional Review Act (CRA) resolution of disapproval that can be used only to overturn rules issued by federal agencies and is considered with special parliamentary procedure in the Senate with limited debate and not subject to the filibuster. CRA resolutions require the President’s signature—and the Biden-Harris Administration has already issued a Statement of Administration Policyagainst the misguided resolution. The final Senate vote on the CRA was 52-48.
Senator Murray’s floor remarks, as prepared for delivery, are below:
“Mr. President. I rise today to urge my colleagues to vote against this dangerous resolution which would pull the rug out from under our COVID response efforts, at a critical moment.
“We are fighting an unprecedented pandemic, and we all know just how painful this fight has been.
“Everyone remembers the way it upended our economy as small businesses shuttered and workers got sent home.
“The way it upended our health care system as emergency rooms filled, supplies dwindled, and health care professionals started working long hours in dangerous conditions.
“The way it upended our lives when schools and child care providers were forced too close to keep people safe.
“We all know people who have been infected by this deadly virus.
“We all know people who are still fighting the effects of long COVID—which we are still working to understand.
“And we all know people who have been killed by this virus.
“We have lost family members, mothers, fathers, daughters, sons, grandparents.
“We have lost dear friends.
“We have lost beloved community members, and frontline workers who keep our communities functioning, teachers and principals, doctors and nurses, police officers and firefighters.
“We’ve lost time with each other that we can’t get back.
“This virus left no American, and no part of America, alone.
“COVID-19 has killed over 785,000 people in our country—more Americans than any war we’ve ever fought.
“And despite what Republicans seem to believe, given the fact we are voting on a resolution to undermine a cornerstone policy of our pandemic response, and despite the hard-fought and very real progress we’ve made, this crisis is not over.
“We are still averaging over a hundred thousand new cases a day.
“We still have over fifty thousand people hospitalized with COVID.
“We are still, right now, seeing, on average, well over a thousand deaths a day—overwhelmingly among people who are not vaccinated.
“And we are still on high alert for new variants.
“We saw with Delta, how a new, more dangerous, more contagious variant of COVID-19 could set back the progress we have fought so hard to make.
“And we are at this very moment learning more about the Omicron variant and what sort of threat it poses.
“So how on Earth does it make sense right now to undercut one of the strongest tools we have to get people vaccinated and stop this virus?
“In what world is that a good idea?
“Mr. President we all know the damage this virus does to our communities.
“We should be doing everything we can to stop it.
“We should be using every tool to protect our country, our economy, and our families.
“And we know vaccines are one of the best tools we have to do that.
“It has been almost one year since the first vaccine was authorized.
“After months of hoping… that news meant we finally had a safe, effective vaccine to protect people from this virus.
“And we have made a lot of progress since then when it comes to making the most of vaccines,and getting them to people across the country.
“Vaccines are now authorized for everyone ages five and up.
“Booster shots are now available to make sure people continue to stay protected amid concerns over new variants.
“And around sixty percent of all eligible people in our nation are fully vaccinated.
“But we still have a ways to go to vaccinate our country—and to vaccinate the world—if we are going to end this pandemic.
“That should be our number one priority.
“But this resolution would move us in the opposite direction.
“It would take away one of the strongest means we have to encourage people to get vaccinated, save lives, end this pandemic, and keep our economic recovery on track.
“Immunization requirements are nothing new in this country…
“They go back as far in our history as General George Washington, who required his troops to get vaccinated against smallpox.
“They have been critical to the fight against diseases like polio, measles, mumps, and rubella—just to name a few.
And the reason we no longer have to worry about diseases like smallpox and polio in this country, is because vaccines work.
“Nor are workplace safety standards a new thing.
“The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has a long track record of setting and enforcing safety standards that prevent workers from getting sick or injured on the job.
“OSHA not only has the authority to protect workers with safety standards, it has been doing this for 50 years.
“The law that established OSHA even gave it authority to respond to emergencies by issuing an Emergency Temporary Standard, or E-T-S, when there is a “grave danger” to workers.
“And, it makes all the sense in the world for them to use that power to protect workers from COVID.
“Because the painful reality, is that COVID-19 has killed a lot of workers. We have lost hundreds of meatpacking workers, and grocery store workers to this virus. We lost over 3,600 health care workers to COVID in one year. And over 10,000 agricultural workers have been killed by COVID.
“This is exactly the kind of threat OSHA should be protecting people against.
“It is exactly the kind of “grave danger” Congress gave OSHA the authority to issue an E-T-S to respond to.
“And OSHA has rightly used that authority to put forward an Emergency Temporary Standard on COVID-19 that is simple, flexible, and lifesaving.
“Republicans seem not to be hearing this part so I want to be especially clear about it.
“It requires employers with 100 or more employees to make sure workers either get vaccinated, OR get a COVID test once a week before coming into the workplace.
“It also provides paid time for workers to get vaccinated, removing a key barrier to vaccination.
“It is a strong tool for getting our nation vaccinated.
“And—despite how my Republican colleagues talk about it— letting employers have the flexibility to offer a testing option means they don’t have to ask workers to leave their job if they choose not to get vaccinated.
“M. President, this step for getting people vaccinated or requiring testing is overwhelmingly popular with the American people.
“A poll taken shortly after President Biden announced this step, found that six in ten Americans supported requiring businesses of 100 or more to have employees vaccinated or tested regularly, and seven in ten supported making sure people have paid time off to get vaccinated.
“Of course, that should be no surprise.
“After all, no one wants to go to work worried they might come home to their family with a deadly virus, worried they might get their kids sick.
“Which is why getting more people vaccinated could also help get our country back to work.
“We all know people want to work where they feel safe, and economists predict that vaccination policies—could lead to millions of Americans reentering the workforce.
“Let’s get something straight: The big threat to our workforce and our economy is the virus that has killed hundreds of thousands of people and shuttered businesses.
“NOT the safety standard that will keep workers safe and businesses open.
“In fact, this type of safety standard is also supported by businesses across the country.
“Many businesses have already implemented policies like the standard Republicans are trying to overturn—and you know what has happened, time after time?
“At United Airlines, 99 percent of its 67,000-person workforce has complied—overwhelmingly by getting vaccinated.
“Tyson Foods went from having less than half of its 120,000 workers vaccinated, to over 96 percent.
“MGM resorts has 98 percent of its workers vaccinated.
“Walmart says an “overwhelming majority” of employees have gotten vaccinated.
“A Connecticut manufacturer with 250 workers recently announced a 100 percent vaccination rate.
“The list goes on and on.
“In one place after another, we’re seeing over 90 percent of workers comply with these requirements—some through testing, and the overwhelming majority through vaccination.
“The big picture here is that this rule, which Republicans keep attacking… is saving lives.
“OSHA estimates it will help protect 84 million workers, and prevent thousands of deaths and over 250,000 hospitalizations from COVID-19.
“And yet, Republicans are pushing to scrap it entirely, undermining that progress, and putting American lives and livelihoods in danger.
“M. President, this pandemic has done a lot of damage.
“It wrecked the economy.
“It shut down schools and businesses.
“It forced people to postpone weddings, graduations, and funerals.
“It devastated our nation’s mental health.
“It killed over three-quarters of a million people.
“And it is not over.
“But we have come a long way.
“This pandemic sent unemployment as high as 14.8 percent.
“Today it is back down to 4.2 percent—the lowest it’s been since the start of this pandemic.
“Schools have reopened and brought students safely back into the classroom.
“Businesses are hiring.
“People are getting vaccinated, getting back to work, getting back to plans that have been put off by this pandemic, and getting back to seeing their friends and family…
“But they do not want to go backwards, and that is exactly where Republicans’ misinformation on commonsense policies like this will take us. Backwards.
“We know the path forward to finally end this involves getting everyone vaccinated.
“We should all be working toward that goal, not against it.
“Families are counting on us to lead our nation through this crisis—not back into it.
“After all we have lost and all the hard work we have done to rebuild. We must not throw our economy, our communities, and American lives into jeopardy by sabotaging our pandemic response.
“When you are fighting a fire, you don’t just stop in the middle and turn off the water.
“But that’s exactly what this resolution would do.
“It would take away one of the most important tools we have given OSHA to protect workers, in the middle of a pandemic when we need it most, and jeopardize all the hard work Americans have done to get us out of this.
“I urge my colleagues to vote: “no” to more lost lives and a longer pandemic—and to join me in defending a commonsense tool that will help us put this incredibly difficult chapter of American life behind us.