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In Sept. 2021, U.S. President Joe Biden signed an executive order saying that all federal employees would have to be vaccinated by Nov. 22, 2021. Another order required vaccinations of all contractors who did business with the federal government.
Building on the President’s announcement in July to strengthen safety requirements for unvaccinated federal workers, the President has signed an Executive Order to take those actions a step further and require all federal executive branch workers to be vaccinated. The President also signed an Executive Order directing that this standard be extended to employees of contractors that do business with the federal government.
Conservative website The Blaze reported that this meant that members of Congress and their staff did not fall under this mandate. This is correct.
The vaccine mandate refers to employees working in the executive branch of government. This covers the president, the vice president, and their offices, which include their advisors and staffers, the cabinet appointed by the president, and heads of various federal agencies. The mandate covers federal agencies such as the Department of Agriculture, the Department of Defense, the Treasury, and more. The armed forces are also included in the executive branch. According to the White House, the total number of people employed in this branch are 4 million.
The legislative and judicial branches are separate from the executive branch, and do not fall under this vaccine mandate. Biden also cannot mandate as president that all Americans get vaccinated. That is up to each state.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said in April 2021, “We cannot require someone to be vaccinated. That's just not what we can do. It is a matter of privacy to know who is or who isn't. I can't go to the Capitol Physician and say, ‘Give me the names of people who aren't vaccinated, so I can go encourage them or make it known to others to encourage them to be vaccinated.’ So we can't – we can't do that.”
In August, a group of House Democrats called on the Capitol physician to institute a vaccine mandate for House members.
In early August 2021, Pelosi said that Congress would follow the guidance of Capitol Physician Brian Monahan. She added, “In a matter of days or weeks, the full approval [from the Food and Drug Administration (FDA)] will be given to the vaccines, that I think will make a difference in terms of what we can do.” That approval came through on Aug. 23, 2021.
In July 2021, Monahan issued an indoor mask mandate for House members and their staffs. This did not extend to the Senate. A vaccination mandate still hasn’t been enforced in Congress.
As such, we rate this claim as “True.”
Chasmar, Jessica. “Congress Exempt from Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate.” Fox News, 13 Sept. 2021, https://www.foxnews.com/politics/congress-exempt-biden-covid-19-vaccine-mandate. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.
“Members of Congress, Their Staffs Will Be Exempt from Biden’s Federal Vaccine Mandate.” TheBlaze, 11 Sept. 2021, https://www.theblaze.com/news/congress-exempt-biden-vaccine-mandate. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.
Monahan, Brian. Congressional Coronavirus Disease Update July 27,2021, CDC Change to Mask Wear Recommendations in Interior Spaces. 27 July 2021, https://cha.house.gov/sites/democrats.cha.house.gov/files/Congressional%20Coronavirus%20Disease%20Update%20July%2027%2C2021%2C%20CDC%20change%20to%20Mask%20Wear%20Recommendations%20in%20Interior%20Spaces.pdf. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.
“President Biden’s COVID-19 Plan.” The White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/covidplan/. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.
Stolberg, Sheryl Gay, and Katie Rogers. “New Vaccine Requirements Apply to a Broad Range of the National Work Force.” The New York Times, 9 Sept. 2021. NYTimes.com, https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/09/us/politics/federal-employee-vaccine-mandate.html. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.
Swanson, Ian. “19 House Democrats Call on Capitol Physician to Mandate Vaccines.” TheHill, 4 Aug. 2021, https://thehill.com/homenews/house/566333-19-house-democrats-call-on-capitol-physician-to-mandate-vaccines. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.
“The Executive Branch.” The White House, https://www.whitehouse.gov/about-the-white-house/our-government/the-executive-branch/. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.
“U.S. Says Federal Employees Must Be Vaccinated by Nov. 22.” Reuters, 14 Sept. 2021, https://www.reuters.com/world/us/us-says-federal-employees-must-be-vaccinated-by-nov-22-2021-09-14/. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.
“Why Is Congress Exempt from the Biden COVID Vaccine Mandate?” Poynter, 13 Sept. 2021, https://www.poynter.org/reporting-editing/2021/why-is-congress-exempt-from-the-biden-covid-vaccine-mandate/. Accessed 16 Sept. 2021.