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With Top GOP Leader, Reschenthaler Highlights Pandemic Challenges, But Stays Mum On GOP Election 'Audit'

Reschenthaler steel company
Lucy Perkins
90.5 WESA
U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler talks about the impact of COVID-19 restrictions and mandates on small businesses.

Days after President Joe Biden announced a vaccine mandate for large swaths of the working population, two Congressional Republicans voiced their opposition on a visit to Carnegie, calling it another burden on small businesses that have struggled to survive during the pandemic.

U.S. Rep. Guy Reschenthaler was joined by top House Republican Kevin McCarthy at a Wednesday-afternoon event at Beaver Steel Services. There, they spoke with business owners about challenges they’ve faced, and heard about the impact the requirement will have on their workforce.

“The problems that are facing [local business leaders] are facing a lot of businesses across the United States,” Reschenthaler said. "We cannot continue in this direction and still remain as economically viable as we are. We have a lot going for us. But the Democrat policy, the liberal agenda, threatens not only businesses large and small in this country, they're particularly damaging to the working class.”

The mandate will require people who work at companies with more than 100 employees to either be vaccinated or be tested weekly for the coronavirus. The rule will be enforced through the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration and the agency could issue $13,600 fines against businesses that do not comply. White House officials say the mandate will impact companies that employ 80 million workers in the private sector.

McCarthy, the Republican minority leader in the House, said he believes in science and acknowledged that the delta variant of the coronavirus is highly contagious. But he dismissed statistics that show members of his own party are less likely to get vaccinated. He said that a balance must be struck when combating the coronavirus, and condemned federal efforts such as pandemic unemployment relief, which he says has kept Americans at home when they could reenter the workforce.

I believe we can do that by maintaining our economy, being open, being smart with how we deal with it,” he said. “[S]ome of the biggest challenges that small businesses face [are] when government picks winners and losers [and provides] encouragement for people not to go back to work.”

McCarthy said that’s a key factor in the labor shortages that small business owners are facing.

“I believe in people getting the vaccine. I believe in letting people have that choice,” McCarthy said. “But when you are mandated upon a business, who already has a labor shortage .... [P]roviding people information, providing people with the incentives to get vaccinated is the appropriate way to go.”

A recent NPR/PBS NewsHour/Marist poll found that 50% of adults in the U.S. support employer vaccine mandates for those returning to in-person workplaces, while 44% don’t. The split runs along party lines: 82% of Democrats supported mandates while just 19% of Republicans surveyed support such a requirement: 45% of Independents support a mandate. The poll did not ask about government mandates on business.

The Carnegie event came hours after Republican state senators in Harrisburg announced they plan to advance a taxpayer-funded investigation of the 2020 election results, even though there is no evidence of widespread voter fraud. Both Reschenthaler and McCarthy voted last January to overturn Pennsylvania's election results following the Jan. 6 insurrection at the U.S. Capitol, and Reschenthaler has questioned the integrity of the 2020 election as well as state and local ballot-counting procedures. But on Wednesday, he deflected questions about the latest efforts by state Republicans to revisit last year's election.

The state Senate committee handling the “audit” plans to subpoena private data from every registered voter, including the last four digits of social security numbers, and driver’s license numbers. The committee says the data, along with other information from election officials, would be turned over to a private company.

Reschenthaler, himself a former state Senator, would not say whether he thought that was a good idea.

“That's a state issue, the state Senate and the state House is doing that. I'm in Congress,” Reschenthaler said. “I'm focused on fighting inflation, making sure that we have a strong presence abroad, making sure we have a secure southern border, and making sure that we're meeting the challenges that's coming from China.”

Lucy Perkins is an editor and also reports on federal government and elections for the Government and Accountability team. Before joining the WESA newsroom, she was an NPR producer in Washington, D.C., working on news programs like All Things Considered and Weekend Edition. You can reach her at lperkins@wesa.fm.