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Illustration: Sarah Grillo/Axios

Republican officials around the country are testing a creative mechanism to build loyalty with unvaccinated Americans while undermining Biden administration mandates: unemployment benefits.

Driving the news: Florida, Iowa, Kansas and Tennessee have changed their unemployment insurance rules to allow workers who are fired or quit over vaccine mandates to receive benefits.

The big picture: Extending unemployment benefits to the unvaccinated is just the latest in a series of proposals aligning the GOP with people who won't get a COVID shot.

  • Republicans see a prime opportunity to rally their base ahead of the midterms. No matter how successful their individual efforts, the campaign is a powerful messaging weapon.

Details: Nine GOP-controlled states have passed laws requiring exemptions for the Biden administration's vaccine mandate, or banning private companies from requiring vaccination altogether, according to the National Academy for State Health Policy.

  • Several states have made it as easy as possible for workers to claim exemptions, allowing them to opt-out on philosophical grounds or requiring businesses to accept all requests for religious or medical exemptions without proof.
  • Legal uncertainty created by a wide variety of new vaccine exemptions in Florida — including for past COVID-19 infections and "anticipated future pregnancy" — prompted Disney World to suspend its vaccine mandate on Tuesday.

In Congress, Sen. Mike Braun (R-Ind.) is leading a formal challenge against the federal vaccine mandate using the Congressional Review Act, the official process for Congress to eliminate an executive branch rule.

  • The resolution is "guaranteed a vote on the Senate floor," according to Braun's office, which could come as early as December.
  • At least 20 bills have been introduced to chip away at Biden's mandates.

The backdrop: On Sept. 8, President Biden announced a new rule requiring businesses with more than 100 employees to implement vaccine mandates, affecting roughly 80 million private-sector workers, as well as millions of federal workers and contractors.

Go deeper

Jan 14, 2022 - Health

America's vaccination drive runs out of gas

Illustration: Annelise Capossela/Axios

The U.S. is likely reaching the end of the road on new vaccinations, after the U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration's vaccine mandate for large employers.

Why it matters: Cash prizes and other incentives barely moved the needle on vaccinations. So the government turned from carrots to sticks — but now it has lost its biggest stick.

Jan 13, 2022 - Health

Army disciplines nearly 3,000 soldiers for refusing COVID vaccine

Photo: Jon Cherry/Getty Images

The U.S. Army announced Wednesday it issued 2,994 written reprimands to soldiers for failing to comply with its COVID-19 vaccine mandate and relieved six active-duty commanders from leadership positions for refusing to get vaccinated.

The big picture: Two battalion commanders were among those removed, per an Army statement. It's received 2,128 religious exemption requests but has yet to grant any. It approved five medical exemptions. 96% of active-duty soldiers are fully vaccinated against the virus.

Go deeper: More than 200 Marines removed for defying COVID vaccine mandate

Biden's epic failures

Illustration: Shoshana Gordon/Axios

In the two months since signing the $1 trillion infrastructure bill into law, President Biden has by almost every measure bombed big time on the things that matter most.

The big picture: Biden, who marks one year in office next Thursday, has never been less popular nationally, after personally lobbying his party and the public on Build Back Better and voting rights — and failing.

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