Republicans in the U.S. Senate have set a Congressional Review Act vote this afternoon on repealing the Vax-or-Test Emergency Temporary Standard issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration last month. It comes as no surprise that Republicans would attempt to use the CRS to repeal an OSHA standard they don’t like. All 50 Republican senators and 213 House Republicans signed onto the Congressional Review Act resolutions.
The problem today is that, despite Democratic control of the Senate, at least two Democratic Senators – Joe Manchin (D-WV) and John Tester (D-MT) — are reportedly poised to vote with Republicans to repeal the standard, which means the Senate resolution will succeed. Ironically, earlier this year, Manchin cosponsored legislation calling for COVID-19 protections for coal miners. So far, no House Republicans have signed onto the resolution.
The OSHA standard will survive this Congressional challenge, however, because in order for a Congressional Review Act resolution to successfully repeal an OSHA standard, the resolution must be passed by the Senate and the House of Representatives — and signed by the President. It’s unclear whether enough Democrats will defect to allow the resolution to pass in the House of Representatives, but the Biden administration has issued a strong Statement of Administration Policy (SAP) promising to veto the CRS resolution if it reaches the President’s desk.
Calling the OSHA standard “common-sense protection for workers at large firms,” the SAP ties the OSHA standard to the fate of the American economy:
At a time when COVID is on the rise, a new variant is on the loose, and more Americans are choosing to be vaccinated, it makes no sense for Congress to reverse this much-needed protection of our workforce. It puts our recovery in danger, and a vote for this resolution risks a return to shutdowns, layoffs, and closures that result from allowing COVID to spread more easily in the workplace. In a time of crisis, Congress should support workers’ safety and protect our recovery, rather than blocking OSHA’s standard.
AFL-CIO Opposes Repeal
The AFL-CIO is also strongly opposing the CRS resolution. Recognizing COVID-19 pandemic as “the largest, most significant occupational health crisis in the 50 years of OSHA’s existence,” the union federation stresses that
Hundreds of thousands of health care workers and other essential workers have been infected and tens of thousands have died from COVID-19 due to exposures at work. Millions of workers remain at grave danger from on-the-job exposures. Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act, OSHA has an obligation to protect these workers and clear authority to do so by issuing standards requiring employers to reduce workplace exposures to COVID-19.
The COVID-19 pandemic is the largest, most significant occupational health crisis in the 50 years of OSHA’s existence. — AFL-CIO
Instead of repealing the OSHA emergency standard just as Omicron makes its debut, the AFL-CIO is calling for OSHA to strengthen it by also requiring improved ventilation, masks and physical distancing.
What is the Congressional Review Act?
The Congressional Review Act was passed in 1996 as part of Newt Gingrich’s Contract on America. It allows the House and Senate to vote by simple majority on a Joint Resolution to repeal any regulations issued by OSHA (or several other agencies) — and is not subject to a filibuster. The President must also sign the resolution for the regulation to be repealed. Even more dangerous, CRS resolutions also bar agencies from adopting standards that are “substantially the same” as the repealed standard without further authorization from Congress. This means that no matter what catastrophic course the COVID pandemic eventually takes, OSHA would never again be able to issue a vaccine mandate without Congressional authorization.
What Is To Be Done
You know what to do. If you live in a state or a Congressional District with a shaky Democrat, call or email.
8:17 — Senate votes 52-48 to repeal OSHA’s Vax-or-Test Emergency Temporary Standard.