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Rubio Introduces Bill to Protect Charter Fishing Captains and Tour Guides From Biden Vaccine Mandate

Dec 17, 2021 | Press Releases

Washington, D.C. — U.S. Senator Marco Rubio (R-FL) introduced the Protecting Guides and Outfitters from Coronavirus Vaccine Mandates in the Great Outdoors Act to ensure that President Joe Biden’s COVID vaccine mandate for federal contractors does not extend to self-employed individuals and small businesses that operate on lands managed by the U.S. Department of Interior, including Everglades National Park fishing and tour guides. Representative Mario Diaz-Balart (R-FL) introduced companion legislation in the U.S. House of Representatives. The legislation is cosponsored by Senators Rick Scott (R-FL), Jim Risch (R-ID), Roger Marshall (R-KS), Bill Cassidy (R-LA), Mike Crapo (R-ID), Cynthia Lummis (R-WY), John Barrasso (R-WY), Tim Scott (R-SC) and Lisa Murkowski (R-AK).

“In yet another example of the Biden Administration’s historic federal overreach into the lives of Americans, the U.S. Department of the Interior is threatening the livelihoods of charter fishing captains, tour guides, and other self-employed outdoor professionals in Florida and across the nation,” Rubio said. “I will not sit idly by as this power-hungry administration continues to pursue draconian and overreaching COVID policies that hurt families in Florida.” 

“While Americans are working hard to recover from the pandemic, the Biden administration is threatening to push its unconstitutional vaccine mandates for federal contractors on self-employed individuals and small businesses,” Scott said. “This important bill will ensure that the U.S. Department of Interior can’t force charter fishing captains and tour guides in Florida and across the nation that work on federal lands to comply with this gross overreach of power.”

“President Biden’s vaccine mandate on private businesses is an overreach. Enforcing it on outdoor businesses is disconnected from the science,” Cassidy said. “As a doctor, encourage people to get vaccinated, but the federal government does not have the power to control individuals’ lives.”

“Vaccines have historically proven to be vital to the public health goal of disease prevention,” Crapo said. “However, a one-size-fits-all federal mandate on vaccines is not a reasonable solution now–or ever.  Idaho has close to 12 million acres of public lands in the state, and a vast need for skilled and resourced outfitters and outdoors professionals who should not be hindered by these mandates.  Medical decisions are best left to patients and their doctors.  I will continue to fight to ensure the federal government stays within its authorities entrusted to it by the Constitution.”  

“America’s public lands belong to the American people, and one’s vaccination status should never be used as a barrier to their use and enjoyment,” Lummis said. “I’m pleased to join my colleague Senator Marco Rubio to defend outfitters and people in Wyoming who rely on the west’s long tradition of multiple use of federal lands for their livelihood.”

“In Wyoming, guides and outfitters play a critical role in promoting tourism across the many public lands in our state,” Barrasso said. “They shouldn’t be forced to choose between their job and their personal health care decisions. As a doctor, I know vaccines are safe and they work. We need more people to choose to get vaccinated. President Biden’s vaccine mandates have had the opposite effect.”

“Accessing Alaska’s outdoors and public lands are key elements to our state’s culture and economy. Enforcing a blanket federal vaccine mandate on individuals using public lands who are not government employees is wrong—and business owners, fishing guides, and hunters alike in Alaska agree,” Murkowski said. “Vaccines are safe and effective–but I continue to hear from different Alaskans about how mandates affect their businesses and our state’s economy. A vaccine mandate to recreate outdoors on public lands makes no sense.”

“As I have consistently stated, getting the COVID-19 vaccine is a personal decision that should not be mandated by the government,” Díaz-Balart said. “This bill protects our fishermen and tour guides, who are not government employees, from being forced to comply with the Biden Administration’s overreaching federal employee vaccine mandate. As these small businesses continue to recover from the economic effects of the COVID pandemic, they should not be further burdened by unnecessary mandates.” 

Background: On September 9, 2021, President Biden signed Executive Order 14042, “Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors,” which directed the “Safer Federal Workforce Task Force” to issue guidance to federal agencies for the development of protocols and requirements for federal contractors and subcontractors relating to coronavirus health precautions.  On September 24, 2021, the Task Force issued guidance that agencies should require most employees of federal contractors and subcontractors to be fully vaccinated against COVID in order to secure and maintain contracts with federal agencies.  On October 15, 2021, in response to the Task Force guidance, the Department of the Interior (DOI) issued a memo to all agencies and bureaus of the department, confirming the application of the Task Force’s guidance to contracts awarded through DOI agencies and bureaus as well as through commercial use permits.  The implementation of this policy was temporarily halted by a federal court on December 7, 2021, however, should the courts ultimately allow the implementation of this mandate, the Protecting Guides and Outfitters from Coronavirus Vaccine Mandates in the Great Outdoors Act would ensure that it cannot be applied to Commercial Use Authorization and Special Recreational Permit applicants and holders, who are clearly not federal contractors.