Ducey promises Arizona will 'push back' on Biden's vaccine, testing mandates

Stacey Barchenger
Arizona Republic

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey has promised to "push back" on President Joe Biden's plan to require large employers to mandate vaccines or weekly COVID-19 tests for their workers.

Biden announced sweeping new federal vaccine requirements affecting as many as 100 million Americans. When asked for details by The Arizona Republic, Ducey did not say what form a pushback would take, only promising "more to follow."

Part of the Biden administration's rules include requiring employees who choose not to get the vaccine to test weekly for the virus. Those rules apply to private workplaces with more than 100 employees. This is expected to affect about 80 million Americans.

The administration also will require roughly 17 million federal employees and workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding to get vaccinated, among others.

While both Biden and Ducey support the same goal — that is, to get more people vaccinated — there's a sharp divide over what role government should take in making them mandatory.

"I've been publicly vaccinated," Ducey told reporters at an unrelated event Thursday afternoon. "That was my choice. What the Biden administration is doing is government overreach, pure and simple. And people don't want them hammering down on them to get this vaccine. 

"How many businesses are going to lose employees? How many schools are going to be shut down? How many of these companies are going to be fined?"

Ducey, who often touts his pro-business agenda, said in a statement the move from the Biden administration "will never stand up in court."

Gov. Doug Ducey says Arizona will push back on President Joe Biden's sweeping new federal vaccine requirements that will affect as many as 100 million Americans.

Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich, a Republican, also criticized the move, echoing the governor's characterization of it as a federal overreach.

"This would be a devastating step toward the nationalization of our health care systems and private workforce, and greatly erode individual liberties," Brnovich said.

"I am reviewing (Biden's) outrageous actions and will take all legal recourse to defend our state’s sovereignty and the rights of Arizonans to make the best health care decisions for themselves."

Biden, a Democrat, also announced that the federal government would pay wages to school staffers and teachers in states where governors are imposing bans on mask mandates.

“Talk about bullying in schools," Biden said in an afternoon speech. "If they’ll not help, if these governors won’t help us beat the pandemic, I'll use my power as president to get them out of the way.” 

To that, Ducey said: "Governors don't report to Joe Biden. Governors don't report to the federal government, the states created the federal government, and Joe Biden has stepped out of his reach."

Democrats praise Biden's actions

Some Arizona Democrats saw Biden's actions as necessary, however, and praised the president.

"This is leadership. President Biden is doing what needs to be done to beat COVID-19. No ifs, ands, or buts — there is no reason to not get the shot if you are eligible," U.S. Rep. Ruben Gallego, D-Ariz., said in reaction to the move.

U.S. Sen. Mark Kelly said in a statement he was "hopeful that these steps will encourage more folks to speak to their doctors and get the vaccine." Meanwhile, U.S. Sen. Kyrsten Sinema said in a statement that vaccination, and following public health guidelines, were the only way to beat the pandemic and encourage economic recovery.

"I am grateful to Arizona employers that have already taken steps to protect our state's workforce and communities, and I look forward to reviewing the details of how today's announced policies will be implemented," Sinema's statement reads.

Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego called the vaccination and testing rules "the critical action" needed to fight COVID-19.

"It’s great to see strong leadership at a time when others have prioritized politics over science," Kate Gallego said in a statement. "This requirement will allow us to protect and save lives."

Tucson Mayor Regina Romero applauded the new vaccine rules, calling them “the right thing to do.” Tucson recently paused its own mandate that city workers get vaccinated after Brnovich found the policy violated a state law passed in June as part of the state budget.

“Lives are on the line," Romero said. "Our economy and its recovery are on the line. Too much is on the line for us to just sit down and be afraid of those that are making the choice not to vaccinate.”

The Associated Press and Arizona Republic reporters Paulina Pineda and Ronald J. Hansen contributed to this article.