During a Congressional hearing on Wednesday before the Subcommittee on Workforce Protections of the Committee on Education and the Workforce, Douglas L. Parker, the Assistant Secretary of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), faced tough questions from Rep. Mary Miller (R-IL) and Rep. Kevin Kiley (R-CA) regarding the agency’s controversial vaccine mandate. The mandate, which the Supreme Court struck down, would have affected 84 million Americans.
Rep. Mary Miller opened her line of questioning by referring to OSHA’s emergency temporary standard released in November 2021. The rule would have required businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations or regular testing for their workforce.
The OSHA Vaccination and Testing ETS refers to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency temporary standard aimed at protecting unvaccinated employees of large employers (100 or more employees) from the risk of COVID-19 transmission in the workplace.
The ETS requires covered employers to implement a “mandatory COVID-19 vaccination policy” unless they allow employees to choose between vaccination or regular COVID-19 testing along with the use of face coverings at work. It also mandates employers to determine the vaccination status of each employee, provide time for vaccination, conduct weekly COVID-19 testing for unvaccinated employees, enforce the use of face coverings indoors, report COVID-19 fatalities and hospitalizations to OSHA, and make records available for inspection.
Miller questioned whether OSHA had the authority to enforce such a sweeping mandate. Parker responded by stating that the Supreme Court had already ruled on the matter, effectively ending the mandate.
Miller retorted, “Thank God the Supreme Court ruled on that and stopped you from doing that. You’re an unelected bureaucrat, and you do not have the power to force 84 million people to take an experimental vaccine or show their papers. You tried to fire 84 million American workers, but do you believe the court was wrong?”
Miller also brought up a statement Parker made to Reuters after the Supreme Court ruling, in which he said the decision was “unfortunate” but wouldn’t stop OSHA from encouraging employers to take adaptive measures.
Miller accused Parker and OSHA of continuing to pressure companies to enforce a vaccine mandate despite the Court’s decision.
Parker denied the allegations, stating, “That’s categorically untrue. We didn’t threaten anyone, and we didn’t demand that anyone be fired.”
“You absolutely were promoting that. The Supreme Court stopped you. Thank God. And in light of considering what would have happened if Americans refused to comply, what was your plan?” asked Miller.
Rep. Mary Miller concluded her questioning by announcing her intention to introduce amendments to strip OSHA of its power and funding.
‘I’d just like to say you are inept. It would have terrorized our economy if the American workers refused to comply, and it would have put 84 million American workers out of work.”
“I’m going to introduce amendments to strip you of your power and funding to protect the 84 million Americans who do not want to show you their vaccine papers and to protect farmers who feed Americans. Mr. Chairman, OSHA needs to be reined in. They have gone far beyond their minor, limited mission,” Miller said.
Rep. Kevin Kiley pressed Parker further, asking what would have happened to employees who did not comply with the rule. Parker’s response was vague, stating that it was “up to the employer” and that the rule “didn’t prescribe any remedies.”
Kiley criticized Parker and other administration officials for what he described as attempts to “rewrite history,” citing previous testimonies from the Secretary of Education and the Secretary of Health and Human Services that were misleading or false.
“Mr. Parker, you’re one of a number now of officials in this administration who has come before this committee and tried to tell us that two plus two doesn’t equal four,” said Kiley. “Has there been some sort of memo going around? Why is the administration insistent on rewriting history?”
Parker argued that the rule his agency promulgated was not strictly a vaccine mandate. According to him, the rule provided an alternative for employees who did not wish to get vaccinated: they could opt for regular COVID-19 testing instead.
“All you have to do is read that rule, and you will see that it is not a vaccine mandate. It gives employees the option of testing in lieu of a vaccine mandate,” Parker said.
NEW – OSHA Head, Doug Parker, Now Says ‘We Didn’t Demand That Anyone Be Fired’ Despite Issuing a Vaccine Mandate for 84 Million Americans
PARKER: “We didn’t threaten anyone but there were companies that were looking forward to clarity from the government about these rules…We… pic.twitter.com/27CLkllwkx
— Chief Nerd (@TheChiefNerd) September 28, 2023
You can watch the full hearing here.