As prepared for delivery:
Welcome to our first legislative hearing of the 118th Congress. Our business today is to consider four items.
H.J. Res. 7 and H.R. 382 both address the Administration’s use of emergency designations relating to the COVID-19 pandemic.
It is now exactly three years since both the national emergency and public health emergency were declared. Since taking office, President Biden has continuously extended these emergency designations, even while admitting publicly that the pandemic is over. Indeed, just a couple of weeks ago, the Biden Administration once again extended the public health emergency.
The continued maintenance of this state of affairs is inappropriate for at least two reasons. First, the country has largely returned to normal. Every day, Americans have returned to work and school with no restrictions on their activities. It is time that the government acknowledges this reality: the pandemic is over, and there is no need for these declared emergencies to continue.
Second, the Biden Administration has used the COVID-19 national emergency as a justification for executive actions that are completely unrelated to the COVID-19 pandemic. In particular, President Biden relied on this continuing emergency declaration as a justification for his illegal and unconstitutional cancellation of federal student debt. When the president uses an emergency declaration to perform otherwise unrelated and unwarranted executive actions, Congress has an obligation to step in and close off that path.
We will also hear testimony on H.R. 497, the Freedom for Health Care Workers Act, ending the vaccine mandate imposed by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on health care providers.
The CMS mandate has exacerbated existing health care staffing shortages, particularly in rural and underserved communities. In rural communities like the ones I represent in southwest and south central Oklahoma, it can often be difficult to hire and retain qualified health care staff. Continuing this mandate has forced health care workers nationwide to choose between their professions and their rights, and in many cases, they are choosing to leave their jobs. While the courts have made it clear that a vaccine mandate cannot be imposed on a national level, that has not stopped the Biden Administration from using any method they can to try and control the decisions of all Americans.
Finally, we will discuss H.R. 139, the SHOW UP Act. As its name implies, this bill will take steps to ensure that the federal workforce return to the same telework policies and practices they maintained prior to the pandemic. All across the country, workplaces have reopened and workers have safely returned in person. There is no reason for the federal government not to do the same.
I look forward to hearing from our witnesses today on these commonsense bills.