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By Bethany Blankley [The Center Square contributor] –
Florida’s former governor and current U.S. senator, Rick Scott, and eight other Republican senators, including Tennessee’s Senator Marsha Blackburn, introduced a bill to exempt all non-U.S. citizen commercial truck drivers from vaccination requirements as a condition to transport goods into the U.S.
It was filed one month after the Department of Homeland Security’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for all foreign travelers entering the U.S. became effective Jan. 22.
Canada also began requiring proof of vaccination for all essential travelers, including truck drivers crossing the Canadian-U.S. border, on Jan. 15.
“Starting on January 22, 2022, the Department of Homeland Security will require that non-U.S. individuals entering the United States via land ports of entry or ferry terminals along our Northern and Southern borders be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 and be prepared to show related proof of vaccination,” DHS Sec. Alejandro Mayorkas said when announcing the mandate. “These updated travel requirements reflect the Biden-Harris Administration’s commitment to protecting public health while safely facilitating the cross-border trade and travel that is critical to our economy.”
Before the cross-border vaccine mandates were put in place last month, essential workers, including truck drivers, have been able to transport supplies to the U.S. freely crossing the border during nearly two years of the pandemic. Putting the mandate in place now, amid a supply chain crisis, doesn’t make any sense, critics argue.
Todd Spencer, president of the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association, said the senators introducing the bill was “an important effort to reverse an arbitrary mandate that has slowed the movement of freight across our borders and made the already difficult job of trucking even more challenging. Truckers are essential workers and federal policies should reflect the critical role they play in our daily lives.”
The Terminating Reckless and Unnecessary Checks Known to Erode Regular Shipping (TRUCKERS) Act would exempt non-U.S. citizen commercial truck drivers traveling from Canada or Mexico who are seeking to temporarily enter the U.S. for business through a land port of entry from proof of vaccination requirements.
Cosigners include Republican senators Marsha Blackburn of Tennessee, Mike Braun of Indiana, Josh Hawley of Missouri, Kevin Cramer and John Hoeven of North Dakota, Mike Lee of Utah, Roger Marshall of Kansas, and Marco Rubio, also from Florida.
“Truck drivers are the backbone of America’s economy. My dad was a truck driver and I know firsthand how critical these men and women are to getting products flowing to American families and businesses again,” Scott said. “President Biden’s inflation and supply chain crises are devastating so many Americans, especially our poorest families like mine growing up. By pushing these ridiculous mandates, he is only making things worse.”
“The government has no business pushing mandates on families and our hardworking businesses and my TRUCKERS Act will help stop this nonsense in its tracks,” he added. “Joe Biden would be wise to take note of what’s happening in Canada and see that the top-down, ‘government controls all’ approach doesn’t work,” referring to the Freedom Convoy organized by Canadian truckers in protest of Canada’s ongoing mandates.
Scott also urged Canada’s government “to drop its ridiculous mandates on foreign drivers.”
Instead, Prime Minister Justin Trudeau invoked the Emergency Services Act for the first time in Canadian history. The government also began freezing protesters’ and supporters’ bank accounts, prompting several U.S. attorneys general to take action.
“When I ran my business, a third of my employees were truck drivers, so I know firsthand how important they are to our economy and our country,” Braun said. “Federal government vaccine mandates are wrong and we should not make our supply chain problems worse by turning away commercial truck drivers temporarily entering the country for business for not showing their vaccination papers.”
Blackburn added, “If the Biden administration is that worried about unvaccinated individuals entering into the USA, they should secure the southern border and stop the millions of unvaccinated illegal aliens from flooding into our country.”
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The bill was filed after 12 Republican senators urged President Joe Biden to abandon his plans to impose a vaccine mandate on non-citizen truck drivers.
Led by Montana Sen. Steve Daines, they argued that keeping the mandate would hinder the transportation of goods across the norther border and exacerbate the ongoing supply chain crisis.
“Trucking is the largest mode of surface trade with Canada; every day, there are approximately 14,000 total truck entries along the U.S.-Canada border hauling more than $846 million of goods. Any disruptions to the continuity of U.S.-Canada trade would likely have far-reaching consequences that extend beyond our shared border,” they wrote.
“In March of 2020, the Department of Homeland Security’s Cybersecurity and Infrastructure Security Agency classified truck drivers as essential to the continued viability of our nation’s infrastructure because trucking is an indispensable component of North American trade and the linchpin of America’s domestic supply chain.”
They urged the president to “reengage our northern neighbor and leading export partner to establish a reciprocal policy for cross-border truck drivers that does not include a vaccine mandate and will not disrupt the North American supply chain.”
They didn’t get a response, and the mandate went into effect.
Florida Republican Congressman Carlos Giménez, who’s introducing a companion bill, said, “Time and time again, Joe Biden has made catastrophic decisions that have hurt the American people. By imposing an unnecessary vaccine mandate on truckers from Canada and Mexico conducting trade with the United States, Biden has further stifled our supply chains and made trade with our most important partners too costly. It is time for us to end this ridiculous vaccine mandate on truckers and begin taking steps to return America back to normal.”
About the Author: Bethany Blankley is a writer at the Center Square, Patheos/Hedgerow, political analyst and former press secretary at Capitol Hill / NY / WDC. Follow Bethany on Twitter @BethanyBlankley.