Chair Rodgers Rules Committee Remarks on Bills to End PHE and Lift Vaccine Mandate on Health Care Workers

Washington. D.C. — House Energy and Commerce Committee Chair Cathy McMorris Rodgers (R-WA) delivered the following remarks before the Rules Committee today on H.R. 382, the Pandemic is Over Act, and H.R. 497, the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act:


“Three years ago tomorrow, then-HHS Secretary Alex Azar declared a Public Health Emergency (PHE) for the emerging threat that was the novel coronavirus. The U.S. had just identified its first official case just over a week prior.

“Within one year of the anniversary of the PHE, thanks to early leadership from President Trump and Operation Warp Speed, an authorized vaccine helped prevent thousands of hospitalizations and deaths.

“And now, three years later, it is estimated that 95 percent of those over 16 have been vaccinated or had COVID-19.

“That’s not to say there still isn’t a risk of contracting COVID-19, but the risk presented by COVID has decreased significantly since 2020 through innovations in vaccines and treatments and through natural immunity.

“It is now a risk Americans should be calculating for themselves and their families.

“Nothing worth doing is without risk – there is a risk to driving to work, playing in a rec league soccer team with friends – and COVID-19 is now one of those risks that Americans can review and balance for themselves.

“The American people have moved on from the government making that risk assessment for them and want their lives to get back to normal.”


“In many ways, the risks presented by government control and mandates in the name of the PHE, outweigh the risks presented by the virus itself.

“President Biden himself even acknowledged this new reality when last September he said unequivocally, ‘the pandemic is over.’

“However, since that statement President Biden has extended the PHE twice and has continued using the pandemic to achieve progressive policy goals.

“In the name of the pandemic, he pushed for indefinite extensions on the moratorium on evictions and the suspension of student loan interest payments, and he attempted to require masking in public transit.

“In February of 2022, a year after vaccines had become widely available to all Americans, I led a letter with 70 other House Republicans asking for the Biden administration to begin planning to unwind the PHE. We received no response.

“Since the administration continues to refuse to return our country to normal, it’s time for the People’s House to act!


“I’m pleased Mr. Guthrie introduced H.R. 382, 'The Pandemic Is Over Act,' to end the public health emergency with respect to COVID-19!”

“The Senate voted in a bipartisan way to end the National Emergency, and I hope this can be bipartisan as well.

“The 2023 omnibus extended telehealth and hospital at home through December 2024.

“The 2023 omnibus also gave states clear timelines to deal with the unprecedented number of people on Medicaid, many of whom are no longer legally eligible for the program and provided clarity on winding down the enhanced federal funding for Medicaid.

“If there are additional flexibilities under the public health emergency that should be extended or permanent, Congress should do so through regular order.

“It’s long past time for the Biden administration to stop relying on an emergency that no longer exists to make unilateral decisions.”


“One especially egregious policy pursued by the Biden administration throughout the PHE has been the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for health care workers.

“H.R. 497, led by Rep. Jeff Duncan, takes an important and long overdue step to repeal this mandate and return health care autonomy to health care workers and also provide critical relief to health care facilities who are struggling to hire and retain frontline health care workers.

“In November 2021, long after data became available that the vaccines did not prevent transmission of COVID-19, the Biden administration did an interim final regulation requiring COVID-19 vaccination for all Medicare and Medicaid providers.

“Because of this mandate, health care facilities were left with the choice of forcibly requiring all of 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 with COVID-19 or face civil monetary penalties, denial of payment for new patients, and even termination of their entire Medicare and Medicaid provider agreement.

“Health care workers were forced to choose between violating their own personal beliefs and their health decisions informed by their doctor’s medical advice or potentially lose their job and livelihood, be forced to move out of 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. Instead, it backfired by adding to Americans’ distrust of public health officials and institutions.

“The CDC and other institutions have confirmed that the vaccines do not prevent transmission of the COVID-19 virus, which reinforces this mandate was unnecessary in protecting vulnerable patients, whom the mandate was allegedly written to help, addition to being cruel and antithetical to our nation’s core values.

“In my home state, the Washington State Hospital Association estimated that Washington lost 2 percent of its health care workforce due to our state vaccine mandate.

“That may not seem like a lot, but at a time of unprecedented health care staffing shortages and multi-layered workforce challenge, it has been another incredible burden on our already struggling health care system.

“There is no reason that this administration should continue this policy, but since they have not taken action, Congress must step in.

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

“Let’s return these 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 the members of this committee to support this legislation.”