Chair Rodgers Floor Remarks on Bill to End COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate on Health Care Workers

Washington. D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) delivered the following remarks on the House Floor today in support of H.R. 497, the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act:  

“I rise in strong support of Rep. Duncan’s bill, H.R. 497, the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act.   

"I want to join in offering my heartfelt condolences to the gentleman from California, Representative Garcia, who lost his mom early on in this pandemic in 2020.  

"I also want to note that in November of 2021, long after the date it became available, the vaccines did not prevent the transmission of COVID-19.  

"So, we’ve known since November of 2021 that the vaccines do not prevent transmission of COVID-19, yet the Biden administration released their interim final regulation requiring this vaccination for all Medicare and Medicaid providers.   

"This bill is long overdue to repeal what is an egregious mandate and to return the decision making to our health care workers as well as providing relief to health care facilities who are struggling to hire frontline health care workers today.    

“Because of this mandate, facilities all across this country are being forced to require all their employees, including support staff, such as cooks and cleaners, to get a COVID-19 vaccination within a matter of weeks, regardless of prior infection or they face civil monetary penalties, denial of payment for new patients, or even termination of their entire Medicare and Medicaid provider agreement.   

“Health care workers have been forced to choose between violating their own personally held beliefs and their health decisions informed by their doctor’s medical advice or potentially lose their job and livelihood, be forced to move from their communities, and struggle to provide for their families and pay their bills during record high inflation.  

“This mandate did NOT build trust in the vaccine. It’s only further eroded trustAmericans’ trust in our public health officials and institutions.    

“The CDC and other institutions have acknowledged that the vaccines do not prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus, which reinforces that this is just an authoritarian mandate, and it doesn’t not protect vulnerable patients. This is not about science. 

“In my home state, the Washington State Hospital Association estimated that 2 percent of the workforce has been lost because of the state mandate.  

“Now that may not seem like a lot, but at a time of unprecedented health care shortages, we need every nurse, every doctor available to be able to be hired and help meet the needs of patients. This is a burden on our already struggling system.  

“There is no reason that this administration should continue this policy, but since they have not taken action, Congress must step in again as we did when we removed the mandate for our troops last year.  

“I’m hopeful that some of our Democrat colleagues will recognize the toll this mandate has placed upon our already-stressed workforce and join in supporting this legislation.  

“Let’s return critical health care decisions to doctors and their patients.  

“It’s time for us to close this chapter of the pandemic and mandates and start looking ahead.    

“I urge my fellow colleagues to support this legislation.”