President Joe Biden confirmed Tuesday he’s considering issuing a vaccine mandate for federal employees as the delta variant spikes across the country.
Biden made the comments shortly after the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) announced new guidelines for vaccinated individuals. The CDC now recommends vaccinated individuals mask up indoors under certain circumstances, though CDC Director Dr. Rochelle Walensky noted it doesn’t have jurisdiction over issuing vaccine mandates.
The Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) became the first federal agency to mandate vaccines for some of its employees Monday. The vaccine mandate for VA employees applies to “the most patient-facing” workers, secretary of veterans affairs Denis McDonough told The New York Times. (RELATED: CDC Tells All Students K-12 To Mask Up, Even If Fully Vaccinated)
On Tuesday, the president addressed whether the public should expect to see more mandates across federal agencies.
“That’s under consideration right now, but if you’re not vaccinated, you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,” Biden said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Tuesday that while she doesn’t believe the White House “has the power” to mandate vaccines across the country, it can do so for the federal workforce, as it “is part of the workforce.”
“Can we mandate vaccines across the country? No, that’s not a role that the federal government I think even has the power to make,” Psaki said, clarifying earlier comments about not issuing vaccine mandates. “The federal workforce is part of the workforce of the federal government. That’s different.”
When asked if Americans should expect more vaccination mandates coming from federal agencies, Psaki hinted yes but avoided giving an outright answer. The press secretary said she thinks “a range of agencies and leaders will look at what steps they should take to protect their workforce and save lives.”
Biden again blamed unvaccinated Americans for the pandemic. The administration has, in recent days, noted that this is now a pandemic “of the unvaccinated.” The president said unvaccinated individuals are sparking “enormous confusion” regarding things like mask mandates.