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President Biden says mandating vaccinations for all federal employees ‘under consideration’

U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a ceremony celebrating the 31st anniversary of the Americans with Disabilities Act ADA at the White House in Washington, D.C., the United States, on July 26, 2021. (Photo by Ting Shen/Xinhua via Getty Images)

(CNN) — President Joe Biden said Tuesday that requiring Covid vaccinations for all federal employees is “under consideration,” a day after the Department of Veterans Affairs announced that health care workers at the agency must get their shots.

“That’s under consideration right now, and if you’re not vaccinated you’re not nearly as smart as I thought you were,” Biden said after delivering remarks to members of the intelligence community at the Office of the Director of National Intelligence.

Asked if he thinks the new revised guidance on masks from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention will lead to confusion for Americans, Biden cast blame on unvaccinated Americans, saying that if they had been vaccinated “we’d be in a very different world.”

“We have a pandemic because of the unvaccinated, and they’re sowing enormous confusion. And the more we’ve learned about this virus and the Delta variant, the more we have to be worried and concerned. There’s only one thing we know for sure: If those other (inaudible) people got vaccinated, we’d be in a very different world,” he said.

The administration’s decision to require vaccines for VA health workers provided a powerful signal that vaccine requirements could be necessary to convince the still-hesitant to get their shots.

Furthering the case for vaccine mandates, the administration is taking steps to spell out the legal grounds upon which American entities can require employees to get shots.

Justice Department lawyers have determined that federal law doesn’t prohibit public agencies and private businesses from requiring Covid-19 vaccines, even if the vaccines have only been authorized for emergency use, according to an opinion posted online Monday.

The opinion from the department’s Office of Legal Counsel — dated July 6, but released publicly Monday — paves the way for more federal agencies and businesses to require vaccinations following the Veterans Affairs announcement about front-line health workers.

In recent weeks, Justice Department officials have been weighing requests from private businesses and federal agencies seeking legal backing for policies aimed at encouraging vaccinations, according to people briefed on the matter.

The opinion marks a reversal from the previous administration. Last year, Attorney General William Barr used the Justice Department’s legal power to try to fight certain Covid restrictions, including joining some businesses that sought to overturn state mask mandates.

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