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Newhouse introduces bill ahead of federal shot mandate

| October 28, 2021 1:03 AM

Rep. Dan Newhouse, R-Wash., on Tuesday introduced legislation to provide an antibody exemption to any federal COVID-19 vaccine mandate for any federal employee or contractor who provides proof of COVID-19 antibodies, according to a press release from Newhouse’s office.

The legislation follows an executive order Sept. 9 by President Joe Biden requiring all federal employees and contractors to get vaccinated against COVID-19 by Nov. 22 and Dec. 8, respectively, or face being fired.

“Federal employees who have opted not to receive the vaccine because they have natural immunity developed after recovering from the virus do not deserve to be fired,” Newhouse said in the release. “President Biden’s overreaching mandate has severe ramifications for communities across the country, especially for communities like central Washington, who make up a large part of the federal workforce. Instead of forcing our federal workforce to choose between employment and vaccination, my bill provides them with an option – a permissible, science-based exception from President Biden’s recent Executive Order.”

Newhouse’s bill includes employers reimbursing employees or contractors for antibody testing, which would provide proof of COVID-19 antibodies. Those with antibodies would not be required to get the COVID-19 vaccine. Additionally, no suspension, furlough, removal or pay reduction or grade could be taken against a federal employee or contractor who chose to meet requirements of the exemption.

“The working families of the UA and our Building Trades have been on the front lines since the beginning of this pandemic, risking their families health and safety to ensure our Federal and State projects never missed a beat,” Nickolas A. Bumpaous, assistant business manager of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 598 and the president of the Central WA Building Trades Council, said in a statement. “For our members, becoming vaccinated is a personal choice between them and their families, their doctor and their faith. The narrow provisions required under this current executive order, places our members between that intimate personal choice and their ability to earn a living for their families. Safe and effective alternatives to this mandate are paramount in protecting the health and safety of our workplaces and the individual liberties of our members. Congressman Newhouse’s legislation will ensure our members have access to the personal options and respect they deserve.”

“Reportedly, some 75 million workers in private workplaces across the country continue to show resistance or reluctance to the COVID-19 vaccines,” the National Electrical Contractors Association said in a statement. “While we encourage our workforce to get vaccinated, it simply is not practical to impose expansive ‘one size fits all’ programmatic mandates based on the state of the pandemic. We must also acknowledge the need to develop patient-centered solutions based on the medical evidence. To this end, we strongly urge the acknowledgement of infection-acquired immunity in addition to vaccine-acquired immunity. We thank Rep. Newhouse for introducing this important piece of legislation.”