Mixed reaction to vaccine mandate ban as Abbott hopes it becomes law

Governor Greg Abbott is hoping the Texas Legislature will turn his executive order banning vaccine mandates into state law, as Texas businesses and politicians react to the order.

A Texas House committee will take up a bill Wednesday afternoon that would allow Texans to opt-out of vaccine mandates. The legislation is designed to beef up Abbott’s executive order, which bars any entity in Texas, including private businesses, from requiring employees or customers to get the COVID-19 vaccine.

Meanwhile, with many Texas healthcare providers having already put vaccine mandates into place for their workers, the Texas Hospital Association came out swinging against the executive order, saying in a statement: "Texas hospitals strongly oppose efforts underway to hamstring them from being able to require vaccination of their own staff, many of whom are at the bedside every day with children and adults who are vulnerable to COVID-19.

For some Texas businesses, the governor’s order sets up a conflict with federal mandates. Last month, President Joe Biden ordered that businesses with 100 or more employees must require their workers be vaccinated or tested regularly. Texas-based American Airlines has been following that federal mandate, with a rep saying the airline believes that supersedes Abbott’s order. Gary Kelly, the CEO of Southwest Airlines, which also calls Texas home, said on CNBC Tuesday that the company will continue to follow the federal mandate as well, though he’s not necessarily happy about it.

"I’ve never been in favor of corporations imposing that kind of a mandate," said Kelly. "But the executive order from President Biden mandates that all federal employees and then all federal contractors, which covers all the major airlines, have to have a mandate, a vaccine in place by Dec. 8, so we’re working through that."

A group of NASA employees gathered outside their campus in Houston Tuesday, welcoming the governor’s executive order, and voicing opposition to Biden’s federal mandate. Protestors said they are not anti-vax, but they believe it’s a decision that should be left up to individuals.

Dr. Eddy Carder, a constitutional law professor at Prairie View A&M, says the legal battle between Texas and Washington over vaccine policy, is likely only beginning.

"There's going to be an effort to enforce the Constitution and the supremacy clause and the federal guidelines that have been dictated by the president," said Carder. "So there's going to be a battle to to occur in that context, and we'll simply see how that plays out. But at this point, it looks as though the federal mandates are especially weighty and very it's very plausible that they will stand."

As the legal battle takes shape, the political firestorm over Abbott’s order is growing. Democrats from the White House to Austin City Hall slammed the order as politically motivated.

"it’s not based on what is in the interests of the people you are governing. It's perhaps in the interests of your own politics," White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday.

"It's an overreach or a backward reach.  In Texas, or even from what the Governor said, businesses are able to make their own decisions in their own enterprises about how best to protect their employees and their customers, and now to take away that freedom from businesses makes absolutely no sense," said Austin Mayor Steve Adler, in an interview with FOX 7 Tuesday night. Adler went on to say the order is not in the best interest of public health.

Meanwhile, members of Congress from Texas are split largely on party lines when it comes to whether Abbott is doing the right thing.

"Well, I think I think he can use his bully pulpit to ask, and the question remains whether what the Legislature will do in terms of actually legally mandating it," said Sen. John Cornyn, a Republican.

"He’s clearly looking for a confrontation with the federal government. I think we're he not in competition with Governor DeSantis to see who is the Trumpiest we would not have to endure this," said Rep. Lloyd Doggett, a Democrat.

Gov. Abbott has threatened to fine businesses and other entities that defy him and require vaccines anyway. However, many legal observers say that will be tough to enforce, particularly given the direct conflict with federal vaccine mandates.  

Austin Mayor Steve Adler reacts to Abbott's ban on vaccine mandates
FOX 7 Discussion: Abbott bans vaccine mandates from any entity
Cornyn, Doggett react to Abbott's order against vaccine mandates
Texas order reflects growing GOP vaccine mandates hostility
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