Willie R. Tubbs, FISM News
Even as the nation comes to grips with the Omicron variant, a sign emerged Monday that federal approach to combating COVID could change in the weeks and months to come.
President Joe Biden told a meeting of the National Governors Association that he felt states rather than the federal government would be best suited to direct COVID responses.
“There is no federal solution,” Biden told Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson. “This gets solved at the state level.”
The president later added, “And it ultimately gets down to where the rubber meets the road and that’s where the patient is in need of help, or preventing the need for help.”
Biden was responding to Hutchinson’s request that the president not take actions that would hinder states’ ability to fight COVID-19.
“One word of concern or encouragement for your team is that as you look towards federal solutions that will help alleviate the challenge, make sure that we do not let federal solutions stand in the way of state solutions,” Hutchinson said. “The production of 500 million rapid tests that will be distributed by the federal government is great, but obviously that dries up the supply chain for the solutions that we might offer as governor.”
The president’s Monday remarks stand in contrast to many of his early efforts.
His administration is currently tied up in numerous federal lawsuits that arose in response to Biden’s top-down approach, which included ordering privately held businesses to require vaccinations and having the Department of Education launch probes into states that have banned mask mandates.
However, in the last month, the president has softened his stance. Last week, in his COVID update, Biden shot down the idea of a return to lockdowns and indicated his office would be more concerned with advocating for vaccination and making available the resources communities and individuals need to respond to outbreaks or infections.
Similarly, on Monday, the president’s words put the federal government in the role of powerful backer to each state and repeated his promise to provide more access to testing.
“My message to the governors is simple,” Biden said. “If you need something, say something.”
President Biden received a generally warm response from the governors. Hutchinson, a Republican and the chair of the NGA, thanked the president for depoliticizing the nation’s COVID response.
However, not all conservatives were impressed.
“Yeah Joe, we know,” Congresswoman Lauren Boebert (R-Colo.) tweeted. “Only took you 50 years in government to realize what the GOP has been saying all along. (Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis) has proven that states can take better care of their people than the federal government can.”
Yeah Joe, we know.
Only took you 50 years in government to realize what the GOP has been saying all along.@GovRonDeSantis has proven that states can take better care of their people than the federal government can. pic.twitter.com/RJyroHnM5b
— Lauren Boebert (@laurenboebert) December 27, 2021
The president did not make any proclamations about his vaccine mandates, or the lawsuits connected to them. The administration’s official stance has been that it would use every available legal means to maintain these requirements.
The Supreme Court will hear arguments about the president’s vaccine mandates for healthcare workers as well as large businesses in early January.