WASHINGTON – As coronavirus rises in their states and districts, fueled by a more contagious variant that takes advantage of low vaccination rates, many Republicans in Congress have refused to fight back against vaccine skeptics in their party who distrust the safety and effectiveness of the gunshots sow.
Amid a widening party divide over coronavirus vaccination, most Republicans have either fueled or ignored the spate of misinformation reaching their constituents and instead focused their message on the vaccine on belittling President Biden by promoting his aspirations to be Americans to vaccinate, characterize as politically motivated and clumsy.
On Tuesday, Louisiana Rep. Steve Scalise, the No. 2 Republican in the House of Representatives, who said he didn’t get his first Pfizer vaccine until Sunday, made the reluctance to Mr Biden and his criticism of Donald J. Trump’s vaccination campaign last year responsible. Senator Tommy Tuberville, Republican of Alabama, said skeptics would not get their shots until “this administration recognizes the efforts of the latter.”
And Senator Roger Marshall of Kansas pointed a finger at White House press secretary Jen Psaki and the director of the National Allergy and Infectious Disease Institute Dr. Anthony S. Fauci.
“Every time Jen Psaki opens her mouth or Dr. Fauci opens his mouth, “he said,” more than 10,000 people say I’ll never take the vaccine. “
Some elected Republicans are the ones who are spreading the falsehoods. Missouri MP Jason Smith, a Senate candidate, warned on Twitter of “KGB-style” agents knocking on the doors of unvaccinated Americans – a reference to Mr Biden’s door-to-door vaccine campaign.
Such statements and the widespread silence among Republicans about vaccination skepticism are beginning to alarm some strategists and party leaders.
“The way to avoid going back to the hospital is to get vaccinated,” said Kentucky Senator Mitch McConnell, Republican leader and polio survivor, one of the few members of his party to take a different approach on Tuesday to pursue. “And I want to encourage everyone to do this and ignore all these other voices that are known to give bad advice.”
Nationally, the average of new coronavirus infections rose nearly 200 percent in 14 days to more than 35,000 as of Monday, and the death toll – a trailing number – is up 44 percent from two weeks. The director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention estimated Tuesday that the Delta variant accounted for 83 percent of all new cases.
The political inequality in vaccine reluctance is stark. The Kaiser Family Foundation reported in late June that 86 percent of Democrats had at least one shot, compared to 52 percent of Republicans. An analysis by the New York Times in April found that the country’s least vaccinated counties had one thing in common: they voted for Mr Trump.
“There’s a big void and it’s growing,” said Jen Kates, senior vice president of the Kaiser Family Foundation. “We know that more unvaccinated people are self-identified Republicans, so they are much more at risk of disease, death and further spread than fully vaccinated people.”
Conservative parts of the country are particularly hard hit. Intensive care units in southwest Missouri and northern Arkansas are busy or filling up quickly, while Florida is popping 40 percent of new cases.
In the Capitol on Tuesday, where a vaccinated assistant to spokeswoman Nancy Pelosi tested positive for the coronavirus, the family doctor warned lawmakers and employees that the Delta variant is now available. He pleaded with unvaccinated lawmakers to get their syringes and warned that a mask mandate may need to be reintroduced.
July 21, 2021 at 1:55 p.m. ET
Amid these troubling trends, Georgia MP Marjorie Taylor Greene has been temporarily suspended from Twitter for writing that Covid-19 is not dangerous for people unless they are obese or over 65. On Tuesday, she refused to answer a reporter’s question about whether she had been vaccinated, in violation of federal health information protection law. (The law does not prevent a person from speaking about their own medical status or forbid anyone to inquire.)
Rep. Madison Cawthorn, Republican from North Carolina, suggested that the Biden administration’s door-knocking effort was just a first step. Next, in an interview with the Right Side Broadcasting Network, he said they would “go door to door to take your guns”.
“You could then go door to door to take your Bibles with you,” he added.
Yet many leading Republicans are paying little attention to the resurgence. At a hearing before the Senate Health Committee, there was little talk among Republicans about how to counter hesitant vaccination, apart from comments from Utah Senator Mitt Romney, who lamented “false conspiracy theories” and wondered if “enemies of our country “Giving out misinformation.
At a press conference held by Republican House leaders on Tuesday, the coronavirus was nowhere to be heard amid the “crisis” of inflation, the southwest border and runaway spending by “socialist” Democrats.
Even those lawmakers who voiced their concern said there was little that politicians could do.
“I follow it daily and it’s not good,” said Senator Josh Hawley, whose home state Missouri is now a Covid hotspot. But he flatly ruled out mandates to vaccinate more Missourians, saying it would only backfire on conservative voters.
“Here’s what you have to do where you run into problems,” said Mr. Hawley. “This is why the president’s language of going door-to-door is so alarming to people that it has the opposite effect.”
Mr. Marshall, a doctor who organized other elected Republican doctors to encourage voters to get vaccinated, concluded that “there’s nothing anyone up here can say that can get anyone to get the vaccine to take. “
In front of Capitol Hill, some conservatives have become much more energetic. The Republican governor of Utah, Spencer Cox, accused conservative “Talking Heads” of having “literally killed their followers” with their vaccination skepticism.
Conservative personality Sean Hannity urged viewers on Monday night to take the virus seriously and get vaccinated. Steve Doocy, the co-host of Trump’s favorite newscast, Fox & Friends, had a similar message on Tuesday morning.
But the messages at Fox remain mixed, as does that of the Republican Party.
Kentucky Republican Senator Rand Paul tries to change the subject. At the health committee hearing on Tuesday, he escalated his longstanding attacks on Dr. Fauci asked whether the National Institutes of Health funded research into “function gain” – experiments to identify genetic mutations that could make a virus stronger – in a laboratory in Wuhan, China, where the pandemic began.
Mr. Paul accused Dr. Fauci for lying to Congress when he testified in May that the NIH was not funding such work. Dr. Fauci shot back that he wasn’t lying and accused the senator of spreading falsehoods by suggesting that American scientists were to blame for the pandemic.
Mr. Marshall used the hearing to ask questions about whether children should be vaccinated. He said afterward that he would encourage anyone over 50 to get the vaccine, but added that there are “pros and cons” for anyone younger, which directly contradicts the CDC’s instructions that anyone over 12 should be vaccinated should be.
The Senator added that those who haven’t been vaccinated should be tested to see if they had antibodies from a previous infection, and if they did, they might not need the vaccination. Again, this contradicts the CDC, which recommends vaccinations for those who have recovered from Covid-19.
But Republicans’ concerns are still mostly centered on the tactics of those trying to vaccinate more people.
“You can see that some people are trying to get people to do things instead of just encouraging them,” said Mr. Scalise. “There is even talk of re-imposing mask requirements on people in certain states when the vaccine is widespread, it is safe and effective.
“We should encourage people to get it,” he added, “but not try to threaten people.”