On Sept. 9, President Joe Biden introduced his action plan to get Americans out of the COVID-19 pandemic as the highly transmissible delta variant continues to spread across the United States. In a speech at the White House, Biden announced that he was going to sign two executive orders that would require all federal employees and federal contractors to be vaccinated. A VERIFY viewer wants to know if these orders also apply to members of Congress and their staff.
Does President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers apply to members of Congress and their staff?
- Remarks by President Biden on fighting the COVID-19 pandemic
- Path Out of the Pandemic: President Biden’s COVID-19 Action Plan
- Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees
- Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors
- Congressional Institute
- Transcript of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi Weekly Press Conference, Aug. 6, 2021
- Congressman Cleaver Leads Call to Require Vaccination or Regular Testing For Members of Congress, Capitol Employees, Aug. 3, 2021
- Congressional Coronavirus Disease Update, July 27, 2021
No, President Biden's vaccine mandate for federal workers does not apply to members of Congress and their staff.
WHAT WE FOUND
Before signing the executive orders, Biden said during a speech at the White House that the executive orders would only apply to federal workers and contractors in the executive branch of the federal government. Members of Congress, which includes the House of Representatives and the Senate, fall under the legislative branch of government. The judicial branch, which includes the Supreme Court, is also exempt from Biden's mandate.
A spokesperson at the Congressional Institute told VERIFY by email that the president cannot impose a vaccine mandate on Congress via executive order or in an agency or department regulation.
On Aug. 3, 20 members of the House of Representatives sent a letter to Dr. Brian Monahan, who serves as the Attending Physician of Congress, asking him to consider mandating vaccines for Congress and their staff or to require COVID-19 testing at least twice a week.
During a weekly press briefing on Aug. 6., a reporter asked House Speaker Nancy Pelosi about the letter and the possibility of a Congressional vaccine mandate. She responded that Congress has to follow the guidance of the Attending Physician.
“We are guided and have to be guided by the guidance of the Capitol Physician. He has made those contentions. And when weighing the equities takes us to a different place, I'm sure he will tell us,” said Pelosi.
In late July, Monahan issued an indoor mask mandate for members of the House and their staff at the Capitol after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) updated its guidance because of the rapid spread of the delta variant. The Senate was not included in the mandate. As of Sept. 10, he has not required members of Congress or their staff to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
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