“You saw what happened in Texas, and the fact that we have other Republican governors that hope to model that Texas legislation as it relates to denying women the right to choice,” Newsom said. “We may have defeated Donald Trump, but we have not defeated Trumpism; Trumpism is still on the ballot in California.”
Biden took the stage and endorsed Newsom as one of the “best governors in the country,” while dubbing Elder a “Trump clone.” He listed several reasons to keep Newsom as governor, including his respect for women, belief in climate change, and respect for scientific guidance during the COVID-19 pandemic.
“The eyes of the nation are on California because the decision you’re about to make isn’t just going to have a huge impact on California. It’s going to reverberate around the nation, and quite frankly – not a joke – around the world,” Biden said.
California’s recall election for governor is set for September 14. If more than 50% of voters vote “yes” to recalling Newsom, he will be replaced by the opposing candidate who garners the most support. In the event that he is recalled, county officials would have 30 days to count votes and on the 38th day, California Secretary of State Shirley Weber would certify the election results.
Of the 23 states that have a total of new COVID-19 cases per capita that surpasses the national ratio, the media outlet reported that 21 voted for Trump in November. Hawaii and Georgia are the only Biden-voting states to have more cases per capita than the country’s average.
A similar statistic applies when it comes to the number of COVID-19 deaths. Of the 18 states that have new death totals higher than the national ratio, the data shows that 14 voted for the former president.
When it comes to the 17 least-vaccinated states, 16 – all but Georgia – voted for Trump, the report said.
The chain of correlation makes it “much harder to assert that politics is not playing a role,” wrote The Washington Post’s national correspondent Philip Bump.
“Republicans have been less concerned about the virus, less likely to embrace practices such as masking, more likely to express opposition to vaccination and (obviously) voted more heavily for Trump,” Bump said. “States that are seeing the most new cases and deaths are states that are less heavily vaccinated and were more supportive of Trump last year.”
According to KFF’s COVID-19 Vaccine Monitor, 20 percent of Republicans say they will “definitely not” get vaccinated. That compares to only 5 percent of Democrats who are opposed to getting a shot, the ongoing research project says.
In July, Anthony Fauci, the director of the National Institute of Allergy and Infectious Disease, told ABC that America has to “get away from the divisiveness” – a reference to the US’s Red/Blue vaccination divide.
Viruses, Fauci said, “don’t know the difference between a Democrat, a Republican, or an Independent.”
This means that 10 million borrowers will be paying their student debt to different companies once the payment pause lifts – Granite State has already announced where its borrowers will be transferred – but despite the administrative difficulties that might arise, an expert said this could be good thing.
Seth Frotman, executive director of the Student Borrower Protection Center and former student loan ombudsman for the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB), told Insider that while there is naturally concern over the sheer number of borrowers who will have to be transitioned to new student-loan companies, it will be a step in the right direction given what PHEAA has done in misleading and harming borrowers.
“Borrowers no longer being forced to deal with this company is a good thing,” Frotman said. “At the heart of every student loan scandal that hurt borrowers, PHEAA was at the center, from harming teachers, to military borrowers, to public servants.”
PHEAA did not immediately respond to Insider’s request for comment. After announcing that FedLoan Servicing was shutting down, it previously told Insider that during its 12-year contract, student-loan programs had “grown increasingly complex and challenging while the cost to service those programs increased dramatically.”
It also said it would help to transition borrowers to a new loan company for as long as needed after its contract ends.
Aside from PHEAA, the student-loan industry as a whole has been under scrutiny by lawmakers and advocates for decades over accusations of fraudulent behavior that caused borrowers to take on debt they can’t pay off.
Frotman said reforms are overdue. “I think that the days of people accepting half-hearted measures and ill-conceived fixes are over,” he said.
Administrations ‘pile one set of failures on top of another’
There are currently nine student-loan companies that manage student debt for 45 million Americans, and in recent years, the CFPB, along with lawmakers like Massachusetts Sen. Elizabeth Warren, have been pushing for better oversight over those companies following findings of bad practices.
For example, Insider previously reported on Warren’s oversight of student-loan company Navient, formerly known as Sallie Mae, under President George W. Bush in 2006. When she was a Harvard Law professor before becoming a senator, she pointed out Sallie Mae’s abuses, and throughout the Obama and Trump eras, she and other Democrats released findings that Navient had pushed borrowers into forbearance and misled them on their options, among other things.
Frotman said he hopes Biden will live up to his campaign promises of reforming student-loan programs, like the Public Service Loan Forgiveness (PSLF) program, which is projected to deny 80% of applicants for at least another five years without reforms.
“We have seen successive administrations just pile one set of failures on top of the other,” Frotman said. “And the President has promised that this is one of his top priorities.”
The student-loan industry was established by President Lyndon B. Johnson to be equitable and accessible for all, but once Congress created Sallie Mae in 1973, the industry turned into a profit machine that helped spawn the $1.7 trillion student-debt crisis.
Now, with two student-loan companies ending their contracts with the Education Department, Frotman said it sends a message that the “malfeasance and incompetence in the industry” will no longer be tolerated.
The final payment pause extension brings ‘a serious sense of urgency’ to fix the system
Education Secretary Miguel Cardona extended the freeze on student-loan payments and interest through the end of January, noting that this would be the “final extension” of the pause. Frotman said given that the administration made it clear there will not be any additional extension, reform needs to happen immediately before payments resume.
“What this does is signal a serious sense of urgency that the department needs to deliver on its promises,” Frotman said. “We need to actually fix the system before we turn payments back on.”
The Education Department has already enacted $9.5 billion in targeted student-debt cancellation but has yet to act on Biden’s campaign promises of canceling $10,000 in student debt per borrower, along with forgiving debt for minority communities. It has started the process of reforming loan forgiveness programs, though, although actually implementing changes could take years.
Warren and other Democrats continue to push for widescale student-debt cancellation for every borrower, and Warren previously told Insider in an interview that “the days are over” when student-loan companies “could do a terrible job.
“The world has changed for student-loan-debt servicers,” Warren said. “They can’t sign a contract, do a lousy job, cost borrowers tons of money, and still get their contracts renewed.”
A wave of lawsuits seeking to put an end to local, state, or federal mask mandates have hit US courts, but attorneys and legal scholars mostly say they’re fighting an uphill battle.
“Those challenging mask mandates would likely argue that the federal government lacks the power to impose them,” said Brendan Beery, a law professor at Western Michigan University. “But there are two areas where the federal government is explicitly authorized to regulate under the Constitution: federal property and interstate commerce.”
As such, the federal mask mandates put in place after President Joe Biden’s January executive order requiring travelers to wear masks would likely stand up to legal challenges, Beery said.
Legal challenges to masks have been filed in federal courts around the US. One plaintiff has filed lawsuits in both Indiana and Michigan.
The Biden administration has defended the mandates, saying in a filing in Florida court last month that they weren’t unconstitutional.
Such mandates are “one of the basic tradeoffs of living in a society, with a government that is authorized to make policy choices that individual citizens may not support,” lawyers for the Department of Justice wrote.
Insider spoke with a handful of attorneys and academics about the prospects of anti-mask lawsuits. The conversations were general and not related to any specific case.
Each person Insider spoke to used the word “unlikely” to describe the probability that one or more of the lawsuits would eventually remove federal mask mandates.
Beery, for example, said the lawsuits were “exceedingly unlikely” to make a difference. Others said they were “highly unlikely” to do so.
“It’s rather unlikely these lawsuits will change federal mandates,” said Minesh Patel, a founder and attorney at The Patel Firm, “because doing so would undermine the common-sense interpretations of certain public health statues.”
Mask mandates are supported by scientists at governmental and non-governmental organizations.
Republican state leaders vowed to fight President Joe Biden’s employer vaccine mandate, with many threatening legal action.
Biden on Thursday said all employers with 100 or more employees must require them to get shots or face weekly testing.
In announcing the plan, he said it was “not about freedom or personal choice,” but instead about protecting Americans.
“‘This is not about freedom’ is a phrase that should never come out of a U.S. President’s mouth,” Tennessee Gov. Bill Lee wrote on Twitter in response.
Other GOP state leaders threatened legal action. South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem said, “@JoeBiden see you in court.” Texas AG Ken Paxton said, “I will see you in court soon!” Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody said the state would take “any and all action” in her power “to stop this unprecedented power grab.”
Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said: “I will pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful overreach by the Biden administration.”
Biden on Thursday said more than 80 million Americans were still unvaccinated, despite the doses being “free, safe, and convenient.”
“These pandemic politics, as I refer to, are making people sick, causing unvaccinated people to die,” he added. “We cannot allow these actions to stand in the way of protecting the large majority of Americans who have done their part and want to get back to life as normal.”
At the White House on Friday, Press Secretary Jen Psaki was asked if any of the governors criticizing Biden’s plan had reached out to the president or his office. Psaki said she didn’t have any info about such calls on hand.
“We are in touch with a range of governors – Democratic and Republican – every week, if not more frequently, about a range of topics, including our efforts to address the pandemic,” she said.
President Joe Biden called for unity ahead of the 20th anniversary of 9/11, citing the cooperation that emerged days after the unprecedented terror attacks.
“In the days that followed September 11, 2001, we saw heroism everywhere in places expected and unexpected. We also saw something all too rare: national unity,” Biden said.
He added: “To me, that’s the central lesson of September 11th: Unity is our greatest strength.”
Biden paid tribute to the almost 3,000 people who died in the attack.
“To the families of the 2,977 people from more than 90 nations killed on September 11, 2001, in New York City, Arlington, Virginia, and Shanksville, Pennsylvania, and the thousands of more that were injured, America and the world commemorate you and your loved ones,” Biden said.
They’ll first visit lower Manhattan to honor the 2,763 people who died when the World Trade Center collapsed. Their next stop will be Shanksville, PA, to pay tribute to the 40 passengers and crew of United Airlines Flight 93, who died while thwarting hijackers from crashing the plane into the US Capitol.
They will also visit the Pentagon, where 184 people died after American Airlines Flight 77 crashed into the building.
“No matter how much time has passed, these commemorations bring everything painfully back as if you just got the news a few seconds ago,” Biden said in his speech.
Republican leaders and vaccine skeptics railed against President Joe Biden on Thursday after he required COVID-19 vaccines for federal employees, contractors, and businesses with more than 100 employees, accusing the commander-in-chief of overstepping the government’s authority.
But US history begs to differ.
It’s not the country’s first pandemic, and there’s a strong tradition of vaccine mandates to quell diseases like smallpox and polio.
Brian Dean Abramson, an expert in vaccine law, told Insider that while vaccines rules aren’t new, they usually come from the state, not the federal government. He said it was common in the 19th century for states and cities to require the smallpox vaccine.
“But it’s been a very long time since we’ve had anything this far-reaching, and we’ve never had anything this far-reaching come from the federal government before,” Abramson said.
The federal government has never attempted to issue a vaccine mandate to the scale of Biden’s, but prior Supreme Court rulings have shown the court’s willingness to allow them to proceed in various circumstances.
One particular case occurred in 1904. A Massachusetts town gave its citizens a choice: take the smallpox vaccine or pay a $5 fine. Pastor Henning Jacobson refused to pay the fine, leading to a 7-2 Supreme Court decision in 1905 in favor of the state and the validity of state-issued vaccine mandates.
Associate Justice John Marshall Harlan wrote the majority opinion, ruling that Harlan’s individual freedoms, such as not taking the vaccine nor paying the required fine, do not give him a free pass to restrict the liberty of others by allowing the virus to spread.
“There are manifold restraints to which every person is necessarily subject for the common good,” Harlan wrote. “On any other basis, organized society could not exist with safety to its members. Society based on the rule that each one is a law unto himself would soon be confronted with disorder and anarchy.”
The Supreme Court affirmed the decision in 1922, ruling it was well within the rights of public and private schools to exclude unvaccinated students. Associate Justice Louis Brandeis issued the majority ruling, citing the Jacobson decision.
“Long before this suit was instituted, Jacobson v. Massachusetts, had settled that it is within the police power of a state to provide for compulsory vaccination,” Brandeis wrote.
Unanswered questions in the Jacobson ruling could divide the courts
The landscape of the country has changed in the 116 years since the Jacobson ruling, presenting unanticipated challenges to the court’s decision.
Abramson told Insider the Jacobson v. Massachusetts case could both help and hurt the validity of Biden’s new mandate. He said the court’s decision could be interpreted in two ways in 2021:
The Supreme Court favors vaccine mandates from all levels of government
The ruling never expressly grants the federal government the power to issue a vaccine mandate, only states and municipalities
He said there’s also a “little bit of wiggle room” in the case that could grant larger exemptions for people with fears of sickness or injury from the virus. Abramson told Insider the pastor in the original case was worried about receiving the smallpox vaccine due to side effects previously experienced by him and his family members.
“Jacobson had fears about the negative effects of the vaccine but didn’t really substantiate those fears,” Abramson said. “If it were proven that someone actually would be seriously injured by a vaccine, then the outcome might be different.”
He said the court never made that determination and the Biden Administration may need to factor in more leniency for medical exemptions.
“They left some room to say that if someone has a medical objection to vaccination and can demonstrate that harm would come to them, they might have a constitutional right to avoid vaccination,” Abramson said.
GOP leaders are preparing to sue the Biden Administration
Republican governors across the country announced their plans Thursday night to fight the Biden Administration’s new mandate in court: Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said he would “pursue every legal option,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said similarly, and South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem made Biden a promise:
“See you in court,” Noem said.
State leaders are not the only politicians jumping into the legal fray against the Biden Administration. Ronna McDaniel, the Republican National Committee chairwoman, said the RNC also plans to sue the administration when the mandate goes into effect on November 1.
Brian Dean Abramson, a leading expert on vaccine law, told Insider the plan is by far the most substantial federal vaccine mandate in the history of the country, in part, because there have historically been very few federal vaccine mandates at all.
The administration will require employers with more than 100 employees to mandate vaccines or weekly testing – a move that will affect more than 80 million workers. Federal employees, contractors of federal agencies, and staff at all healthcare facilities that receive funding from Medicare or Medicaid will also be required to show proof of vaccination.
The plan, which also includes the imposition of fines of up to $14,000 per violation for employers that ignore these mandates, is part of the president’s attempt to counteract the Delta variant’s threat in the US.
“They’ve come from the states,” Abramson said. “During the smallpox epidemics in the 19th century and early 20th centuries, it was fairly common for states to mandate smallpox vaccines for large portions of the population.”
Similarly, employer and school vaccine mandates have been historically abundant, as well, during different points in American history, Abramson said. Over the past few months, several large companies have already imposed their own COVID-19 vaccine requirements before Biden’s Thursday announcement.
“But it’s been a very long time since we’ve had anything this far-reaching, and we’ve never had anything this far-reaching come from the federal government before,” Abramson said.
Biden’s announcement that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would soon be tasked with writing and enforcing the vaccine requirement elicited a slew of angry and defiant responses on Thursday afternoon, particularly from Republican lawmakers who accused the president of everything from “assaulting private businesses” to “trampling on civil liberties.”
With the fierce politicization of vaccines in recent months and the fervent political divide across the country, Abramson said the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate is certain to face legal challenges.
As he sees it, there are three prevailing questions that remain to be resolved.
OSHA and the Commerce Clause
The first possible legal hurdle to the president’s intended vaccine mandate has to do with the Commerce Clause of the US Constitution, which gives Congress the constitutional power to regulate commerce both with foreign nations and among the states.
The question the courts will likely have to answer is whether OSHA, a federal regulatory agency tasked with keeping workers safe, has the power to broadly mandate vaccines under the Commerce Clause.
Congress passed the Occupational Safety and Health, which was signed by President Richard Nixon in 1970, that created OSHA.
OSHA has historically been given broad authority to regulate workplace safety, instituting a number of standards across a variety of industries. Similarly, the Commerce Clause has been construed fairly broadly to allow the government to step in and impose its will when it can demonstrate that something – in this case, COVID-19 – has an impact on interstate commerce, Abramson said.
“Obviously the COVID pandemic has affected interstate commerce,” he said. “It travels from state to state and it can be transmitted by people in any walk of life.”
The Commerce Clause gives Congress the broad power to legislate; Congress has the power to delegate authority to agencies like OSHA; and OSHA has the authority to make and enforce rules that protect worker health and safety.
A successful challenge under the Commerce Clause would be the most constitutionally effective in overriding or dismantling the Biden administration’s mandate, Abramson said.
“If there was a Commerce Clause challenge and it succeeded, that would have the strongest impact toward eliminating the ability of the federal government to require broad vaccination mandates,” he said.
But he also thinks that particular argument is weak. There’s a separate possible challenge he thinks is stronger.
Overly burdensome or discriminatory requirements
Abramson said he anticipates several challenges will be raised regarding how exemptions are made available and applied to those who remain unvaccinated.
The two most likely vaccine exemptions will be for those who have a religious opposition to the vaccine, and those who have a certain disability covered under the Americans with Disabilities Act that prevents them from receiving the shot, Abramson said.
The question this challenge poses is: what is an appropriate, non-discriminatory, non-burdensome accommodation for those with exemptions?
Historically, school students who have been exempt from vaccine requirements have not been treated any differently after receiving approval for their exemption, Abramson said. But COVID-19 has prompted a shift in these standards, and those who once would not have been treated any differently due to their vaccination status, now find themselves facing extra restrictions, like testing and masking.
“The question of whether it’s discriminatory or burdensome is probably a stronger argument,” Abramson said. “But it isn’t an argument that necessarily eliminates mandates.”
If such a challenge succeeded – something Abramson conceded was possible – the federal vaccine mandate would likely not be dismantled or overturned. Instead, it would prompt the regulation to be rewritten in a more carefully tailored way, Abramson said.
Another hiccup in the overly-burdensome challenge is the fact that many vaccinated people have returned to wearing masks in public amid the spread of the Delta variant, meaning the presence of a mask no longer necessarily indicates whether a person is vaccinated or unvaccinated.
The question of antibodies
A third question, one that hasn’t yet demanded the same attention as the previous two, is whether those who already had COVID-19 should be subject to vaccine mandates.
Abramson said more and more unvaccinated people who already had the illness are starting to argue that they should be exempt from vaccine requirements because they have the COVID-19 antibodies that the vaccines deliver to their bodies.
He said the challenge could end up being a due process clause: If you can prove you had COVID-19, you may end up with a compromise rule where a specific number of antibody levels could possibly exempt you from the vaccine.
A long road ahead
Biden’s Thursday announcement detailing the federal government’s vaccine mandate was heavy on speechifying and light on specifics.
“We have to wait and see what OSHA says,” Abramson said, noting that the final version of the government’s mandate will likely be more nuanced. “There’s a long sausage-making process between here and there.”
He said it’s possible the final OSHA rule will incorporate measures to avoid the kinds of concerns that could lead a court to overturn the mandate.
“My anticipation would be with the initial challenges, we’re not going to see a suspension of this rule,” he said.
On the Senate side, Republican Sen. Rick Scott of Florida said he encouraged “America’s job creators – large and small – to challenge this insane ‘order,'” suggesting legal challenges ahead for the new OSHA rule.
In addition to the OSHA rule, Biden signed an executive order on Thursday mandating federal employees and contractors of federal agencies to get vaccinated without being able to opt out and get regular testing instead, which is more stringent than a requirement announced in June that allowed for weekly testing. The new mandate also comes after the US military required service members to get vaccinated.
President Joe Biden on Thursday tore into governors he said are threatening the United States’ progress on stemming the tide of the COVID-19 pandemic.
“There are elected officials actively working to undermine the fight against COVID-19,” Biden said at a news conference. “Instead of encouraging people to get vaccinated and mask up, they’re ordering mobile morgues for the unvaccinated dying from COVID in their communities.”
Biden announced his new COVID-19 Action Plan, “Path out of the Pandemic,” which aims, in part, to get more people vaccinated in the US, keep schools open, and protect the broader economy.
The Biden administration is also leaning in on masking and testing mandates, while waiting for the Food and Drug Administration to approve booster shots for people who are already fully vaccinated.
The president has made clear that he wants to avoid retreading that territory, putting some state governors that he said have been uncooperative on notice: “If these governors won’t help us … I’ll use my powers as president to get them out of the way,” Biden said.