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Capito talks vaccines, voting rights, infrastructure, VA hospital cameras with West Virginia reporters

MORGANTOWN – Sen. Shelley Moore Capito talked with members of the West Virginia press on Thursday about vaccine mandates, voting rights bills, lessons to be learned from GOP victories and near victories in Tuesday’s elections, and other topics.

OSHA published its long-awaited vaccine mandate rule on Thursday. It applies to employers with 100 or more employees and has a Jan. 4 deadline – the same as prior mandates the Biden administration issued for health care workers and federal contractors.

The OSHA rules employees to either get vaccinated or to get tested once a week and wear a mask on the job. Employers must provide paid time off to get the shot and to recover from any side effects.

Capito said the rule will affect 84 million Americans. “I deeply reject that the president can mandate what private businesses are doing in this space.” It’s problematic, she’s joined with some colleagues to try to take it down, and she knows it will be challenged in court.

The Dominion Post raised the issue of the state vaccine exemption bill passed in October, which goes the other direction, particularly for religious exemptions that require only a notarized certificate from the employee.

“I am very much pro-vaccination,” she said. “I don’t want the government telling private businesses what parameters they should set for their own employees to be able to encourage vaccinations.”

Businesses have undertaken a variety of measures: financial incentives, insurance premium penalties, testing requirements, for example. “I think there’s a lot of other ideas out there that don’t say mandatory vaccination.”

There will be negative consequences from the rule, she said: The workforce will lose people in droves. Right now, only 38% of truck drivers are vaccinated and many of them drive under federal contracts; 30% of TSA workers are unvaccinated and their deadline is Nov. 22.

“We’ve got to get some flexibility into this,” recognizing many people will not get vaccinated.

She noted the state law doesn’t take effect until next year – Jan. 18 – and thinks much of this will settle down as the Delta variant slows down and cases drop. “we’ve got to tip that balance of forcing mandates to the point where we’re not getting any gain out of it anymore, we’re only getting huge loss.”

Payments to illegals

Capito issued a release on Wednesday saying she had joined with other colleagues to introduce an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act aiming to block Biden’s proposed compensation to illegal immigrants detained under the temporary Trump-era Zero-Tolerance policy.

The payments, being negotiated by the Biden Department of Justice, are proposed to be as high as $450,000 per person as compensation for individuals being separated from their families. The total compensation is estimated at nearly $1 billion.

Later Wednesday, according to news reports, Biden denied any knowledge of the negotiations and said the payments would never happen. However, the American Civil Liberties Union, which is litigating on behalf of some of the illegal immigrants, said Biden may not have been fully briefed on his own administration’s actions.

In her release, Capito called the proposal “mind boggling” and agreed with many who are saying it will simply provide more incentive for people to attempt illegal entry.

Addressing the apparent flip-flop on Thursday, Capito said, “there was a lot of outrage from our hardworking West Virginians as to what that would mean. … There’s still some confusion about this.” But it’s something that bears watching. “It’s an outrageous amount of money, number one, and it really is infuriating to many of the folks I represent.”

Voting rights

Also on Wednesday, Senate Republicans blocked advancement of the John Lewis Voting Rights Act, a bill supported by Capito’s West Virginia colleague Sen. Joe Manchin. The 50-49 vote failed to overcome the filibuster.

The act would have restored certain provisions of the 1965 Voting Rights Act that were stricken by the U.S. Supreme Court in 2013 dealing with Justice Department approval for localities that historically discriminated against minorities to change their election rules. An amendment removed a requirement that localities with growing minority populations get DOJ approval to change their rules in order to hand out food and drinks to people waiting in polling place lines.

Capito said she voted for the Voting Rights Act back in the 2000s. Discrimination is illegal and intolerable. “This is just a solution in search of a problem.” Virginia saw its highest turnout for a gubernatorial election. “I think we have more access, more people voting. … this is just a federal overreach into our voting rights, and our voting rules and regulations which are handled by the states individually, by how the states want to tailor them.”

Lessons learned

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi was reported to be readying the House for a vote on the $1.75 trillion Build Back Better framework – which was still not in bill form – Thursday evening, followed by a possible vote on the Senate’s bipartisan infrastructure bill (BIF) on Friday.

Capito answered a question about what her colleagues across the aisle might have learned from significant Democratic losses in Tuesday’s elections.

Capito said BIF passed the Senate in July and that would have been the time for Pelosi to work wither her House caucus to get it passed and do something good for everyone. Instead, she let it beheld hostage (Manchin’s term) by the progressive left until Build Back Better could move.

Capito thinks that Pelosi’s failure hurt Democratic candidates in Virginia and New Jersey. “Doing nothing is not an option for the American people.” They have education, good roads, clean water, public safety on their minds – not the expansive social agenda proposed in Build Back Better.

VA hospital cameras

Capito noted that the Senate passed HR 1510, the Veterans Camera Report Act, sponsored by Rep. David McKinley, R-W.Va. That bill was spurred by the murders of veterans at the Clarksburg VA hospital and will require the VA “to report on its policies and procedures relating to the usage and maintenance of video cameras for patient safety and law enforcement at VA medical facilities.”

Capito had sponsored the Senate version, joined by Manchin. She regards the bill’s passage as an important victory. “If we’d had cameras … we would’ve been able to see the movements of certain people going in and our of rooms of our veterans. … I look forward to seeing that put into place.”

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