Sep 13, 2021 - Podcasts

Battle over federal vaccine mandates

The new vaccine mandates that President Biden announced last week will affect about 100 million Americans. And while it seems many Americans agree with the president, there’s also been significant backlash — with some GOP governors vowing legal action and other top Republicans calling for a public uprising.

  • Plus, a September sprint in the U.S. Senate.
  • And, the latest fight between Facebook and regulators.

Guests: Axios' Margaret Talev, Alayna Treene, and Sara Fischer.

Credits: Axios Today is produced in partnership with Pushkin Industries. The team includes Niala Boodhoo, Sara Kehaulani Goo, Dan Bobkoff, Alexandra Botti, Sabeena Singhani, Lydia McMullen-Laird, and Michael Hanf. Music is composed by Evan Viola. You can reach us at [email protected] You can text questions, comments and story ideas to Niala as a text or voice memo to 202-918-4893.

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NIALA BOODHOO: Good morning! Welcome to Axios Today! It’s Monday, September 13th. I’m Niala Boodhoo. Here’s what we’re watching today: a September sprint in the U.S. Senate. Plus, the latest round between Facebook and regulators.But first, today’s One Big Thing: new battles over federal vaccine mandates.

The new vaccine mandates that President Biden announced last week will affect about 100 million Americans all told. And while it seems that many Americans agree with the president, there's also been a significant backlash, with some GOP governors vowing legal action and other top Republicans calling for a public uprising. Margaret Talev is the managing editor for politics at Axios. Hi Margaret.


NIALA: How striking is this reaction we've seen, especially over the past few days from Republicans?

MARGARET: The Republican governors in states like Florida and states like Texas, they're responding to the GOP base that is stridently on the side of the freedom not to be vaccinated, the freedom to work in a place where your boss can't tell you what to do. And it is that question mark about the most vulnerable districts for Democrats that is really driving this push by Republican politicians to jump all over Joe Biden for these mandates. The argument is that it is an issue of personal freedom or of medical choice. Of course Americans who aren't comfortable with taking a shot have the right to speak out against it and have the right to resist. The question is what's the breaking point between free speech, you know civil disobedience and a threat to the nation, a threat to national security, a violation of the law.

NIALA: Right. And former President Bush, compared those threats to national security that you're talking about with the terrorism that took place on 9/11 at an anniversary ceremony in Shanksville, Pennsylvania on Saturday.

FORMER PRESIDENT GEORGE BUSH: There is a little cultural overlap between violent extremists abroad and violent extremists at home. But then there's disdainful pluralism and their disregard for human life and their determination to defile national symbols. They are children of the same foul spirit and it is our continuing duty to confront them.

MARGARET: This is the former Republican president of the United States, speaking to what used to be his base, trying to send a very clear message: “Hey, just because this is Americans fighting Americans doesn't make it any less dangerous. That this is a moment when there is a need for spirit of purpose and unity. The 20th anniversary of 9/11 coming in the middle of this once in a century pandemic, um, has raised so many questions about what it means for America to be united. That is a real challenge for public health officials and for political officials, is to muster the same sense of purpose, the same sense of focus and of unity that the country felt after 9/11 and to apply it to the coronavirus pandemic.

NIALA: Margaret Talev is Axios’ managing editor for politics. Thanks Margaret.

MARGARET: Thanks Niala.

NIALA: In 15 seconds, the three big September deadlines you need to know about for Congressional lawmakers.


NIALA: Welcome back to Axios Today. I'm Niala Boodhoo. Today, the Senate is back from recess, and September is full of deadlines. Axios’ congressional reporter Alayna Treene is here with three you need to know about. Good morning, Alayna.

ALAYNA TREENE: Good morning, Niala. Thanks for having me.

NIALA: Thanks for being here. The first is September 15th. Can you tell us what that's about?

ALAYNA: That is the quote unquote “soft” deadline for the Democrat run committees to finish drafting their sections of the parties' massive 3.5 trillion spending bill, I say 3.5 trillion. It may not look like that after it's negotiated, as of now, it doesn't look like they'll actually meet that deadline. But that's kind of the ambitious goal that they're working toward.

NIALA: Okay. So that's this Wednesday. [ALAYNA: Mhm] The next deadline is September 27th and that has to do with infrastructure, not the budget, right?

ALAYNA: Yes, that is the deadline that house speaker Nancy Pelosi had promised to centrists that they would have a vote on the 1.2 trillion bipartisan infrastructure deal. The House has been waiting to take it up. Similar to the 15th deadline, I will be surprised if they're able to pass that-that massive 3.5 trillion package by September 27th. Senator Mark Warner is also warning that he might vote against the 3.5 trillion spending package if more money isn’t added for housing assistance, my colleague Hans Nichols scooped. His threat just another indication that the proposal will face a variety of obstacles before the House and Senate can agree to a top line number.

NIALA: Now the September 30th deadline is a deadline Congress has to meet. Can you tell us why?

ALAYNA: Yes. If they don't meet their deadline of September 30th, the government will shut down. So essentially the government runs out of money by September 30th. And, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Majority Leader Steny Hoyer said that the House is expected to consider a short-term spending bill, or what they call in Congress, a continuing resolution. We're hearing that it'll likely extend through December but that date could change as well.

NIALA: Alayna Treene covers Congress and The White House for Axios. Thanks Alayna.

ALAYNA: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: Facebook is looking to launch a digital wallet called Novi by the end of this year with peer-to-peer transactions starting in 2022. It's likely to be the next fight between the tech giant and regulators. Axios’ Sara Fischer and Mike Allen sat down with Facebook Financials’ David Marcus, who told them Facebook has a quote “trust deficit.” And Sara Fischer is here with us now. Hey, Sara.


NIALA: Sara, let's start with what Marcus said to you when you spoke to him last week.

SARA: Yeah, so basically he said doing it would bring accessibility to banking, to millions of people. He said, you know, 62 million people in the U.S., I did not know that, are unbanked. Over a billion people worldwide don't have bank accounts. And so he says it's a problem that needs solved, and Facebook is uniquely capable of solving it. But the problem, Niala, is he admits that there's a trust deficit. Facebook has problems getting regulators, sometimes consumers, to trust its intentions. And so that's why he was in D.C. last week, he was meeting with key regulatory stakeholders to convince them that Facebook should be allowed to do this.

NIALA: Let’s hear what he had to say about this when you asked him about it.

FACEBOOK’S DAVID MARCUS: If there's one thing we need, it's the benefit of the doubt. That, you know, the realization that the state of things is really truly unacceptable.

NIALA: So Sara, when he says that Facebook needs the benefit of the doubt, how do regulators react to a statement like that?

SARA: Well, I think it's hard for them to just default to trusting Facebook. I mean, look at Facebook's track record when it comes to things like misinformation. But what Marcus is trying to say is that: don't worry about our track record with that stuff. This is different. And it's important that we launch it because if we don't, we're going to be really far behind. Now, is that argument going to work? I'm not quite sure, but he's hoping it does. But let's not be naive here. Niala, there's a business implication for Facebook too, building a digital wallet, getting involved in things like cryptocurrency and payments, helps to build on Facebook's other missions. So even though they have good intentions, like don't be fooled. There's still a business reason that they're doing this.

NIALA: What kind of response did that argument get in Washington?

SARA: I think people agree that the financial system is broken in the U.S. You know, one of the things Marcus said, which I thought was enlightening, is that it still takes three days for payments to be processed with your bank. That's a problem. But the thing is, regulators don't necessarily think that Facebook should be the one to solve the problem.

NIALA: Axios’ Sara Fischer. Thank you, Sara.

SARA: Thank you, Niala.

NIALA: Before we go today - it was a historic weekend of tennis in New York - but - not for the way everyone thought it would be - because it was the women, not the men who made history. I spent part of my vacation at the Open - but sadly didn’t get to see the two young women who made history on Saturday in the women’s final - as the youngest players ever to reach the championship. British 18-year-old Emma Radacanu defeated 19-year-old Canadian Leylah Fernandez. Emma - who was ranked 150 in the world before this weekend - didn’t even lose one set in the 10 matches she played at the U.S. Open. The idea was the history would continue yesterday with the Serbian Novak Djokovic in a quest for a calendar Grand Slam - that’s every Championship title this season as well as a record breaking 21st championship title. But - he was defeated by Russian Daniil Mevedev. I’m Niala Boodhoo - thanks for listening - stay safe and we’ll see you back here tomorrow morning.

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