Republicans are seizing the growing debate over coronavirus vaccination passports as part of their strategy to regain control of Congress in 2022.
In interviews and conversations with The Hill, Republican strategists and operatives acknowledged the growing enthusiasm among Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19. But many are also betting that emerging debates over so-called vaccine passports will help them tap into voters’ fears of government and privacy violations.
The idea of vaccine passports has gained increasing attention in recent weeks as eligibility for COVID-19 vaccines has expanded rapidly and Americans begin to see glimpses of post-pandemic normalcy on the horizon. The White House has indicated that it will issue basic guidelines for such programs, although it has also said it has no plans to create a centralized federal requirement.
Still, some of the country’s most prominent conservatives have begun to cling to the emerging possibility of passports or vaccine certificates, viewing these proposals as an extension of their campaign to unite the Republican base in opposition to coronavirus-related restrictions. such as confinement orders and masks. mandates.
“He’s a political winner,” said Ford O’Connell, a Florida-based Republican strategist. “They see it as a total assault on personal liberties and the Constitution, but it is also about protecting the ordinary Floridian who wants to live his everyday life.”
Governor of Florida Ron DeSantisRon DeSantis Florida County Parts Evacuated Amid Sewage Reservoir Collapse Fears More GOP-Led States Risk Corporate Backlash Like Georgia’s Overnight Medical Care – CDC Says People Fully Vaccinated can travel safely | Biden laments those who act like COVID-19 is fighting | Will vaccine passports be the biggest campaign theme of 2022? PLUS is one of the Republicans who have spoken early against the proposals. He criticized the idea of vaccine passports at a press conference on Monday, calling it “unacceptable” for local governments or businesses to require proof of vaccination for people to “participate in normal society.”
On Friday, he signed an executive order prohibiting any future vaccine certification requirements in Florida, and asked the Republican Party-controlled state legislature to draft a bill to enshrine that policy into law.
Republicans hope their early efforts to define vaccine passports as a symbol of government overreach will help counter what Democrats see as their most powerful political weapon in the 2022 midterm elections: their efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic. and the resulting economic crisis.
Democrats hope a massive $ 1.9 trillion stimulus package signed last month, along with a radical proposal to reform the nation’s infrastructure, will help them avoid the typical electoral paleness that a new president’s party tends to. see in the first midterm elections after his inauguration. .
Some Republicans compared the crackdown on vaccine passports to the party’s campaign against the Affordable Care Act (ACA) in the 2010 midterm elections, when the Republican Party successfully rallied voters in opposition to the radical health care and government spending reforms under the Obama administration.
That year, Democrats lost 63 House seats and, consequently, their majority in the lower house.
“It is not a COVID discussion for Republicans. It is a discussion of freedom. It’s a discussion about the role of the government, ”said a Republican strategist. “Would you rather have a discussion about COVID next year? No. But we want to have that discussion about freedom. “
Republicans need to win five seats in the House and just one in the Senate next year to regain their majorities in both houses, a goal that is within the reach of the Republican Party.
But Republicans are also defending more Senate seats next year than Democrats, including several open seats in perennial battlefield states like Pennsylvania and North Carolina. They expect the reaction of the voters President BidenJoe Biden – Lawmakers Say Fixing Border Crisis Is Biden’s Job Trump Asks Republicans To Boycott Businesses Amid White House Voting Law Controversy: GOP Has ‘Had Trouble Articulating A Reason’ To oppose the infrastructure plan MORE and the agenda of the Democrats in Congress will be enough to get them back in the majority.
Not everyone in the Republican Party is confident that opposition to vaccine passports will be a winning issue for them.
“It’s red meat for the rank and file, sure, but this doesn’t help us get the medium back,” a veteran GOP campaign aide told The Hill. “It’s more of the culture wars … and it also means talking about COVID rather than the damage Democrats are doing.”
Surveys show that a growing number of Americans have already received one of the approved coronavirus vaccines or plan to get vaccinated as soon as possible. A Gallup poll released Tuesday found that roughly three in four Americans are willing to get vaccinated against COVID-19.
Only about a quarter of those surveyed, 26 percent, said they are unwilling to receive one of the three vaccines approved by the Food and Drug Administration (FDA).
What’s more, categorically rejecting the notion of passports or vaccine certificates could put many Republicans at odds with the business community they have longed to align with.
The US Chamber of Commerce, the powerful business group that has traditionally backed Republicans, joined several airline and union business organizations in a letter to the White House COVID-19 recovery coordinator. Jeff ZientsJeff ZientsArkansas Ends Mask Mandate, But Extends Vaccine Eligibility to All Adults Night Health Care: More Johnson & Johnson Doses Next Week | This is where schools are back in session | WHO asks rich countries to donate 10 million doses of White House vaccines: 11 million doses of Johnson & Johnson will arrive next week MORE last month he urged the Biden administration to “rapidly develop a uniform and specific federal guidance for temporary COVID-19 health credentials (CHC) covering both testing and vaccinations.”
Senator Mike leeMichael (Mike) Shumway Lee Georgia County Says Elimination of All-Star Game Will Cost Tourism 0 Million Republican Senators Push to End MLB Hillicon Valley Antitrust Status: Supreme Court Rules Text Alerts Facebook are not similar to robocalls | Republicans pressure Google, Apple, Amazon on Parler removals | Texas Senate prevents social media platforms from banning users for political reasons MORE (R-Utah) suggested something of a middle ground when it comes to vaccine passports, saying in an interview on the “Utah Politics” podcast on Friday that private companies should have the option of using such tools, while insisting that the government should stay away from the problem.
“I think vaccines are good, and I think once people have received a vaccine, they have the ability to present credentials to private owners who might decide that they want their clients vaccinated,” Lee said.
“You never want to put us in a position where our own government is playing a role in the way human beings move within our own borders,” he added. “That is something that the American people, regardless of their political leanings, do not want.”
Meanwhile, some Republicans are taking a wait-and-see approach to the vaccine passport argument. In particular, they hope to see if the ancients President TrumpDonald Trump Lawmakers Say Fixing Border Crisis Is Biden’s Job Trump Calls On Republicans To Boycott Businesses Amid Voting Law Controversy Georgia County Says Elimination Of All-Star Game Will Cost Tourism 0M MORE intervenes on the subject.
“The X factor in all of this, if it becomes the big issue for Republicans, is what DJT says about it,” said a former Trump campaign official, referring to the former president’s initials. “The candidates are going to look for clues, because he is still the most important person in this party.”