Last week, the House passed the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act of 2021 (H.R. 550), which is meant to direct the Department of Health and Human Services to take actions to improve data sharing and other aspects of immunization information systems. These are confidential, population-based databases that maintain a record of vaccine administrations. Specifically, HHS must:
develop a strategy and plan to improve these systems, including systems supported by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention;
designate data and technology standards for use in these systems; and
award grants to health departments and other government agencies to improve their systems.
It was a big bipartisan win-- 294-130-- in an increasingly fractious, polarized Congress, where everything is over-politicized. In this instance, every single Democrat plus 80 Republicans voted for the bill. It was only opposed by hard-core Trumpists who oppose everything and anything that could be interpreted as a "Democratic" win, regardless of the impact on the well-being of the country and their own constituents. You can probably guess that the opposition was led by the crackpots, nihilists and fascists who hate everything and everyone: Marjorie Traitor Greene (Q-GA), Madison Cawthorn (R-NC), Paul Gosar (R-AZ), Lauren Boebert (Q-CO), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Ronny Jackson (R-TX), Andy Biggs (R-AZ), Mo Brooks (R-AL), Devin Nunes (R-CA), Louie Gohmert (R-TX), Jody Hice (R-GA), Mary Miller (Q-IL), Darrell Issa (R-CA), Vicky Hartzler (R-MO), Andrew Clyde (R-GA), Gym Jordan (R-OH)...
But, almost needless to say, some Republicans who sometimes try to portray themselves as mainstream and "non-fascist normal" voted with the extremists. Keep in mind that even GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy voted for this. But you know who didn't? Nicole Malliotakis, who represents a swing district spanning Staten Island and south Brooklyn. Progressive Democrat Brittany DeBarros is taking on Malliotakis in a clash of ideas this cycle. "This virus," DeBarros told me this morning, "is hurting everyday, hardworking people the most while the wealthy and elite turn a profit. Staten Island has the highest case rate of any borough in the city and least access to health care facilities but elected officials like my opponent Nicole Malliotakis are doing nothing to help. Worse than nothing, they are actively working against the needs of the people and voting against resources with life or death implications. Our work should be in saving lives and it has never been more urgent to remove leaders who would leave us for dead for their own greed."
Former reactionary Blue Dog-turned-reactionary Republican Jefferson Van Drew (NJ) sent out a statement to his constituents about why he sided with the pandemic and against them. "This week," his office wrote, "Congressman Van Drew voted NO on H.R.550, the Immunization Infrastructure Modernization Act. This bill would provide $400 million in taxpayer dollars to fund a computer database that would track and record when vaccine doses have been administered to individuals. 'This bill is another attempt by House Democrats to extend their government overreach by tracking unvaccinated individuals and recording personal health decisions made by the American people,' said Congressman Van Drew. 'There is no reason that $400 million in taxpayer dollars should be used to fund a program that creates a database to store citizens private medical information regarding vaccination status. This majority in Congress is doing everything in their power to seize control of Americans and exert federal control in every aspect of our daily lives. We see time and time again Democrats wasting taxpayer dollars on legislation like this; instead, they should be focused on issues affecting every American, like soaring gas prices, rapid inflation, the supply chain crisis, and the labor shortage. As legislators, we should be ensuring Americans are able to put food on the table and that shelves are stocked for the holidays, not spending more money to create an unnecessary and useless program.'"
Is that really what Van Drew thinks that McCarthy and 79 other Republicans are in favor of? All that nonsense and Fox News propaganda he just described? Don Young, the Alaska Republican who voted for the bill, told his constituents that the bill "isn’t at all related to a federal vaccine database or vaccine passport. In fact, the bill actually increases security, bolsters cyber defense, and helps better protect Americans’ health privacy. The state-level IIS databases already exist and have been in use for decades. All this bill does is beef up their security. In fact, the bill goes a step farther to reign in the Biden Administration by ensuring federal money cannot go toward repurposing an IIS to enforce vaccine mandates... [T]his bill does not create new IIS databases. Immunization information (whether it’s immunization against COVID-19, Hepatitis A, or chicken pox) already exists in state-level databases. The information contained within them is decentralized, anonymous, and contains no personally identifiable information. H.R. 550 ensures existing systems are kept private and hardened against potential cyber-attacks. Alaska’s patients are already rightfully concerned about digital health privacy following the DHSS cyber-attack which exposed health information."
Another Republican who pretends to be vaguely mainstream-- and who almost always votes exactly how McCarthy does, but didn't in this case-- is Jay Obernolte, whose district is north and west of San Bernardino. Progressive Democrat Derek Marshall is challenging him for the seat this cycle. This afternoon, Marshall told me that "My opponent's NO vote on a popular bipartisan bill to improve Immunization infrastructure in the middle of a deadly pandemic is another disappointing example in a long list of votes where Rep. Obernolte has put his allegiance to party extremism over the lives of the families of our district. While unfortunate, it is not out of character for a man whose first vote in Congress was to try to overturn a free and fair presidential election. Make no mistake, while Jay Obernolte may not be as vocal as extremist representatives like Lauren Boebert and Marjorie Taylor Green, his values and voting record show he runs in lockstep with their dangerous and destructive ideology. The people of California's 8th deserve better and while my opponent is comfortable with constantly voting against providing resources for the hard-working families of the district, when I'm elected to Congress my entire focus will be about bringing jobs, infrastructure, and resources to the high desert because that is what true leadership and representation looks like."