A top White House adviser has escalated the war of words between the Biden administration and Republican governors over the vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees — promising that the president would “run over” anyone who opposed the new rule.
Cedric Richmond, director of the White House Office of Public Engagement and a former Louisiana congressman, told CNN’s “Don Lemon Tonight” Thursday that it was “unfortunate that we have so many governors that are using vaccinations and mask requirements as a political gain.”
“But our purpose is to save lives, and we will do anything and everything under our control to make sure that we protect our citizens, especially those children who cannot get a vaccination yet,” Richmond added.
“And so, we have to do everything we can to make sure adults do it. And those governors that stand in the way, I think it was very clear from the president’s tone today that he will run over them.”
Richmond’s remark echoed Biden’s speech from the White House earlier Thursday, in which the president swiped at GOP leaders who oppose mask and vaccine mandates.
“If they’ll not help, if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I’ll use my powers as president to get them out of the way,” said Biden, who also told Americans that that the question of whether to get a COVID-19 vaccine “is not about freedom, or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you — the people you work with, the people you care about, the people you love.”
“It’s not for political purposes,” Richmond said. “It’s to save the lives of American people, and so we won’t let one or two individuals stand in the way.”
Under the rule announced by Biden Thursday, the Labor Department will force businesses with more than 100 workers to require that their staff either get vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing — or face hefty fines. The measure is expected to affect two-thirds of American workers.
Republican governors have reacted angrily to the new mandate, with some threatening or exploring legal challenges.
Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts told Fox News’ “The Ingraham Angle” Thursday that Biden’s remarks about forcing governors “out of the way” was “outrageous,” adding that the president “thinks we live in the Soviet Union.”
“We have weekly phone calls with the governors and the White House staff,” Ricketts said. “The president has never once been on any of those, and yet he’s got the gall to tell us that we’re not fighting the pandemic?”
Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis and Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, who have repeatedly butted heads with Biden over anti-pandemic measures, have also weighed in — with Abbott calling the mandate “an assault on private businesses” in a tweet Thursday.
Meanwhile, DeSantis said Friday that Biden was acting “outside the bounds of the Constitution” and vowed the state would “fight back and offer protections.”
“When you have a president like Biden issuing unconstitutional edicts against the American people, we have a responsibility to stand up for the Constitution and to fight back, and we are doing that in the state of Florida,” DeSantis said at an event on Ponte Vedra Beach, according to NBC Miami.
“This is a president who has acknowledged in the past he does not have the authority to force this on anybody and this order would result potentially in millions of Americans losing their jobs,” the governor went on. “I think we should be protecting people’s jobs, not trying to kick people out of work right now. And that’s exactly what we’re going to be doing in Florida.”