October 27, 2021

Smith, Comer Call Out Biden Administration’s Failure of Accountability at Regulatory Agency, Lack of Transparency on Vaccine Mandate

WASHINGTON, D.C. – Today, House Budget Committee Republican Leader Jason Smith (MO-08) and House Oversight and Reform Committee Republican Leader James Comer (KY-01), in a letter to the Office of Management and Budget (OMB), excoriated the Biden Administration over its efforts to shortchange the federal rulemaking process in order to impose a national vaccine mandate on employers and called on the OMB Acting Director to immediately withdraw the rule.

“With no Senate confirmed leadership at the top of OMB’s Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, the Biden Administration has left a serious lack of accountability at a very powerful agency. To make matters worse, OMB is attempting to bypass the standard rulemaking process to rush through a nationwide mandate on employers which will undoubtedly have adverse economic impacts. This affront to individual liberty is being written in secret by White House staff, with scant public input or transparency. I urge the President to put the needs of working Americans before his partisan policy agenda and immediately withdraw the vaccine mandate rule,” said House Budget Committee Republican Leader Smith.

“President Biden’s authoritarian vaccine mandate imposes troubling and likely illegal constraints on American businesses and their employees. OMB’s recent decision to expedite this mandate is just the latest example of President Biden and his Administration making a unilateral, rushed decision with no thought towards its implementation or impact on the economy. Americans have been blind-sided by the President’s mandate. OMB should immediately cease their attempts to bypass the standard rulemaking process and be transparent with the American people,” said House Oversight and Reform Committee Republican Leader Comer.

The Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs (OIRA) serves as the central authority for the review of all regulations promulgated by the White House and federal agencies. The OIRA Administrator, the head of this office, was designated by Congress as a Senate-confirmed position in order to promote better accountability and transparency for agency rulemaking. In a stunning failure of leadership, President Biden has not put forth a nominee for consideration during his nine months in office. By contrast, at this point in their first years in office, Presidents Trump, Obama, Bush, and Clinton all nominated OIRA Administrators who successfully completed Senate confirmation hearings, were confirmed, and were actively serving.

The vaccine mandate is to be issued in the form of an emergency temporary standard (ETS). This mechanism foregoes the standard rulemaking process, including a notice and public comment period where potentially affected employers and employees can raise concerns with the draft rule. A single business found out of compliance with the forthcoming mandate could face a fine upwards of hundreds of thousands of dollars. Despite the massive economic implications of this sweeping mandate, the rule was drafted in a mere five weeks.

In addition to noting the lack of transparency and hasty rulemaking process, Ranking Members Smith and Comer pointed out the harmful effects this mandate would have on the American workforce.

“This rule will also further strain the labor market, hindering our country’s economic recovery and amplifying the lagging workforce crisis. This Administration has directed massive government expansion with little accountability: monthly child payments without work requirements, automatic Medicaid enrollment, the largest permanent increase in food stamps since the program’s creation, and stimulus checks all have lowered the cost of unemployment – making it easier to live off the government and not work…this vaccine mandate is yet another counterproductive policy that will place an additional costly burden on businesses,” wrote Smith and Comer in the letter.

Read the full letter to OMB here.