White House says ‘politics’ is behind Texas governor’s executive order banning vaccine mandates

WASHINGTON — Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott continue to battle the White House over how to curb the coronavirus pandemic, with both Republican governors challenging the vaccination requirements for businesses that were announced last month by the Biden administration. The mandate at issue covers any employer of more than 100 people, including federal employees, as well as employees of hospitals that receive federal assistance.

On Monday, Abbott signed an executive order forbidding any vaccine mandates in Texas. On the same day, DeSantis announced that his administration would be investigating entities that allegedly violated a Florida law prohibiting vaccine “passports.”

Among the supposed violators is an Orlando venue that hosted a concert by British singer Harry Styles. Proof of vaccination or a negative COVID-19 test was required for entry.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott speaks during a visit to the border wall near Pharr, Texas, on June 30. (Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty Images)

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott at a visit to the border wall near Pharr, Texas, on June 30. (Sergio Flores/AFP via Getty Images)

Asked Tuesday about the purported motivation for Abbott’s move, White House press secretary Jen Psaki answered bluntly, with a single word: “Politics.” The two Republican governors have also led the party’s resistance to school-based mask mandates. President Biden had previously criticized that fight as motivated purely by political considerations.

DeSantis emerged over the summer as a leading contender for the 2024 presidential nomination, despite more than 50,000 people having died from COVID-19 in Florida, which was hit especially hard by the more transmissible Delta variant of the coronavirus. The state ranks 10th in per capita deaths from COVID-19.

Abbott is also rumored to be potentially considering a White House run. More than 68,000 people have died from COVID-19 in Texas, which ranks 20th among U.S. states for deaths from the virus per capita.

“I think it’s pretty clear when you make a choice that’s against all public health information and data out there,” Psaki went on to say, “that it’s not based on what is in the interest of the people you are governing. It’s perhaps in the interest of your own politics.” 

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis speaks at the American Museum of the Cuba Diaspora in Miami on July 13. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis at the American Museum of the Cuba Diaspora in Miami on July 13. (Joe Raedle/Getty Images)

Despite resistance from the governors of Texas and Florida, states where 17 percent of all U.S. COVID-19 deaths have occurred, vaccine requirements have broad popular support. Even more importantly, compliance has been high.

According to the latest Yahoo News/YouGov poll of 1,640 U.S. adults, conducted from Oct. 1 to 4, just 15 percent of those surveyed said they will not get vaccinated for COVID-19 — down from 19 percent in August.

Psaki said the White House would not back down from implementing its employer vaccine mandates in Texas, Florida or any other state. “Our intention is to implement and continue to work to implement these requirements across the country,” she said during Tuesday’s briefing, “including in the states where there are attempts to oppose them.” 


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