Ann Wilson, senior vice president, Government Affairs, MEMA, urged the trucking industry to keep an eye on lawmakers in Washington, D.C. for the remainder of this year during Wednesday’s Heavy Duty Manufacturers Association (HDMA) Pulse Webinar.
Pressing news could come out of Washington in the next couple of weeks, such as President Joe Biden’s Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS) on vaccination testing for COVID-19. The president announced the standard in November, and he anticipated it would take effect in the beginning of December.
“However, litigation was filed and at this point Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has announced they will not be enforcing this until there’s a decision by the Sixth Circuit [Court],” Wilson said. The Sixth Circuit has been assigned to decide if the stay continues or lift the stay and allow OSHA to continue to implement regulations.
“We are expecting a decision by the Sixth Circuit any day now. Understand folks what will happen is this will be appealed by one party or another to the Supreme Court. It’s uncertain what the Supreme Court will do. There’s a lot of discussion back and forth about how this may work,” she said.
UPDATE: A panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday approved the president’s vaccine requirement for larger private companies. Appeals of the decision already are in the works, according to a CBS News report.
The Supreme Court this month upheld a vaccine requirement in New York for health workers and it did not have some of the exemptions that are in the ETS, so that may be an indication they believe this is appropriate action for government. “But keep in mind the majority of the regulation on COVID … has been done at the state level so the Supreme Court may find federal jurisdictions do not have a role in this,” Wilson said.
MEMA is closely watching the activities of the Sixth Circuit while working with a couple of coalitions and the association has agreed to sign on some comments. The comments raised technical and logistical concerns about the ETS. MEMA also is working on filing its own comments on the standard in January.
“Congress is taking a look at this and trying to figure out what they may do. But even if Congress votes to overrule this overall in a Congressional Review Act, the president can and will veto it,” Wilson said.
“If you have over 100 employees nationwide and you have not made a determination of whether you’re going to do a vaccine mandate, a testing mandate or how you’re going to participate, make sure you understand you know what to do next,” Wilson said, adding that MEMA offers a video on its site on the topic.
Wilson urges companies to understand their options. They might have a good idea of how many employees are vaccinated, how much of the testing might have to be implemented and what the testing supplies are like in the jurisdictions where they have operations. “If you have your hands around that you may want to wait until the Sixth Circuit makes its decision,” she said.
Wilson also addressed the Biden Administration’s Build Back Better plan. The legislative tool the administration is using to consider Build Back Better is called budget reconciliation. The House has passed a $1.75 trillion package and they have moved it over to the Senate. Budget reconciliation requires 50 votes in the Senate. “The 50 votes are not there for the Democrats,” she said.
If it does pass, there are numerous and significant tax provisions in the Build Back Better program that will impact many companies in the trucking industry. “I would encourage you to work with your CFOs and accountants to make sure you understand what the potential impact of this is,” Wilson said.
The House is in recess for the rest of the year but could come back to consider passage of the Build Back Better plan.
“There’s are a lot of concern about the size of the program and how we’ll pay for it. It’s just a significant number of concerns. If the Senate does not pass Build Back Better by the end of the year, it can take it up again next year,” she said, adding, the more that time passes, chances of passage go down.