D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser is the latest in a string of left-wing mayors to institute a proof-of-vaccination mandate. Starting on Saturday, anyone 12 or older who wants to eat at a restaurant, go to a concert, or see a movie in the nation’s capital will have to present proof of vaccination against COVID-19.

Rep. Ralph Norman, R-S.C., is one of 19 lawmakers to sign a letter asking Bowser to reverse her decision. Norman thinks Bowser’s mandate will have adverse consequences for people living in or visiting the District of Columbia.

“It’s a draconian overreach of government,” Norman says, adding: “This has been a nightmare for so many of the people that are trying to put food on the table, and they’re getting hit with cost increase after cost increase. There is a limit.”

Norman joins the show to discuss Congress’ efforts to prevent the mandate from taking effect—and the consequences for the city’s businesses and residents if it does.

We also cover these stories: 

  • According to the Department of Labor, the inflation rate hit a 39-year high in December.
  • A new study out of California suggests that the omicron strain of COVID-19 is far less severe than previous strains of the virus.
  • A D.C. administrative agency announces a policy that could serve as a model for government lists of Americans who object to vaccinations on religious grounds.

Listen the podcast below or read the lightly edited transcript:

Doug Blair: Our guest today is Congressman Ralph Norman who represents South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District. Congressman, welcome to the show.

Rep. Ralph Norman: Glad to be with you, Doug.

Blair: Excellent. Well, I wish we could talk about a little bit of a better topic today, but unfortunately, D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser recently announced that starting January 15th, you would be unable to enter into most private businesses, like restaurants and bars and movie theaters, without presenting proof of vaccination.

Congressman, you and 18 other members of Congress sent a letter to D.C. Mayor Bowser asking her to revoke this vaccine mandate. Why would you do that?

Norman: Well, it’s a draconian overreach of government. Mayor Bowser represents a budget of $17.2 billion she has on the taxpayers that support that huge of a budget, paid for by businesses—30% are black-owned businesses, 57% have been shut down.

This coronavirus has been going on for two years now, and the cities that have been shut down and have required a vaccination card—San Francisco, New York, Philadelphia—it hadn’t worked, it hadn’t reduced the spread.

The fact that she would do this is draconian, and it’s time for us to say “no.” And it’s time for the businesses to use this as an opportunity to say, “Look, since this started, most revenues have been down 57%.” And now’s the time for the businesses to say “no.” And the fact that she’s doing this ought to give people a real reason, one, to voice their opinion and, two, to vote her out of office if she doesn’t change her ways.

Blair: Now, the District of Columbia is unique amongst some of the federal territories in that it is the capital of the United States, therefore it has some of its responsibilities abrogated to Congress. As a congressman, does the U.S. Congress have power to stop this mandate from taking place?

Norman: It’s been so quick. Yes, we do, but we’ve got to agree to get together and do this. We just can’t keep writing letters, which we’ve had no response.

And think of the hundreds of thousands of people that are not going to be able to visit the capital. They hadn’t been able to do it since the coronavirus began two years ago. And now with her doing this, where are you going to eat? Where are you going to take your family, a drive to Virginia?

And this is something Congress ought to get involved with. We’re trying to figure out what to do. But first thing you can do is let our voices be heard, write the letters. And there’ll be more letters coming. But judging from the lack of response that we’ve received from her, I doubt we’ll get any.

Blair: Do you feel as if there’s any motivation in Congress to get something like this done, to prevent this vaccine mandate from taking place?

Norman: Well, you have mixed opinions of it. Some people are strong, “ought to be mandated.” Not that many Republicans. Democrats are pretty united on everybody getting vaccinated, except when they leave their particular state that’s been shut down and go to Florida, as [Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez] and others have done, and go without a mask.

But I’ve always been of the mindset that this is a personal choice. If you’ve got a medical reason you don’t want to get a vaccination, you shouldn’t have to do it. If you’ve got a religious reason that you don’t want to receive the vaccination.

But for Mayor Bowser to require 12-year-olds and up to have the vaccine and show the card is simply an overreach of government, and shows a dictatorial attitude that she has. And it affects a lot of people. It affects this city, it affects the businesses. And it’s not like the businesses are not already struggling.

Blair: Now, I want to focus on that a little bit more, about businesses. Do you see the consequences for the businesses as a result of this vaccine mandate as similar to maybe what we saw with the lockdowns, or do you think it could possibly be worse?

Norman: It’s going to be worse, because it’s compounded now. Go to any grocery store. You talk about the supply chain shortage, the ships that are at sea that can’t get unloaded for whatever reason. You see the inflation that’s already taking place. Look at what you’re paying for gasoline. Look at what you’re paying for groceries, if you can get them.

And it’s only going to get worse, because if you notice, this administration is not taking ownership in anything. If it’s not being blamed on [former President Donald] Trump, he’s talking about other issues.

Yesterday, as an example, he was talking about this voter reform, HR 1, that they’re trying to pass, which federalizes our elections and takes away voter ID. And he’s not talking about the supply chain.

But when you combine the cost of goods, the fact now that you can’t get them, the fact now that you’re paying 60% more in gas prices, too—by the way, OPEC, who is made up of 15 countries that don’t exactly like us, like Venezuela, Iraq, and Iran, cut off all of our natural supplies—it’s going to be far greater impact, because not only the businesses are not going to have the customers to come and buy their product, but there’s no relief in sight.

The Democrats want to keep COVID alive and well for political reasons from here on out. And it’s up to people like us and other conservatives to say, “We’re not going to do that,” and to try to find a solution, to just say, “We’re not doing it.”

We’ve got decisions to make here in Washington as far as what we’re going to do. The place that we go to business, we meet at Capitol Hill Club. If you don’t want to show your vaccination, whether you have one or not, to require that, we’re going to have to have a choice to make, and everybody’s going to have to make their own particular decision.

Blair: Have you had the opportunity to speak with business owners or restaurant owners in the District about how they feel this vaccine mandate would affect their business?

Norman: Yeah, and it’s mixed. They don’t want to be shut down. What little income they’ve had over the past two years, some have survived because they’ve either cut back staff, if you’re a restaurant, they catered food out and you could get it in. I had a breakfast this morning where it was catered in. But they don’t want to be shut down and have to go through the permitting process of opening. So what do you do?

And so, it’s unfair. It’s really unfair for the taxpayers for government to mandate this when it’s unconstitutional. I hope the courts strike it down and we get some relief. But this administration is doubling down. They know it’s unpopular in the polls, and they saw what happened in Virginia. They saw what happened in New Jersey, almost, where people are sick of these policies. They just want to get back to living their lives. And for government to say “no,” the government works for us, we don’t work for government. Mayor Bowser works for the taxpayers, supposedly.

But we got to get back to basics with it and we’ve got to let our voices be heard. If the businesses in Washington, D.C., and other states, cities and states all around this country, don’t voice their opinion, then it’s going to be just what happened in your home state, in Portland, Oregon, where you have a complete loss of businesses and they leave.

Go to downtown Washington. It’s shut down for the most part. Who’s going to replace that revenue? The $17.4 billion that Mayor Bowser has in her budget, who’s going to pay that? She can raise taxes, which she already has done on those making $250 and greater, but you can only tax the taxpayers so much, and they leave—the very reason California is losing 400,000 people, the very reason New York city is losing a seat and losing 410,000 people.

And it benefits a state like South Carolina. We’ve got low taxes, we’ve got good government. We’ve stayed open, and we’ve left it up to the businesses to decide what’s best for them, which is as it should be.

Blair: So the better response then for the District of Columbia would be to follow the South Carolina models, to remain open, to allow businesses to make their own decisions.

Norman: They ought to be calling a meeting with Mayor Bowser and the council every day, get a group of concerned citizens. This is their livelihood. It’s not like they’ve been punished enough already. This has been a nightmare for so many of the people that are trying to put food on the table, and they’re getting hit with cost increase after cost increase. There is a limit.

And I’m just hoping the people, we the people, will say, “Enough is enough. We’re going to take our government back and we’re going to get involved.” And that means putting your name on the line and running for office, which I’m encouraging people to do who are like-minded. And the states created the federal government, not vice versa. The federal government didn’t create states. We got to get back to basics.

Blair: Following up on something you discussed a little earlier, D.C. is a very popular spot for tourists to come with their families, obviously, including their children. You write in the letter that Mayor Bowser has instituted “another draconian measure against children, a group that has unfairly suffered at the hands of liberal educators and the institutions they serve throughout this pandemic.” Can you discuss maybe how this vaccine mandate might negatively impact children?

Norman: Well, first of all, what’s been happening is the teachers unions have dictated that schools shut down. Now, how that happened I don’t fully understand. The ramifications of that are a lot of groups want to come to Washington, D.C., if they’re not in school. And it’s going to completely shut that down, particularly 12 and up. So you’re going to stop that and stop we the people [from] seeing their capital.

I’ve got a staffer who it’s the first time she’s visited. It’s fabulous to come up here. And particularly at a young age, I take them on the floor and vote. I think it’s 14 and under. And it’s such a great experience. I haven’t done that since the end of 2019.

I had a family in, and we always take pictures, and had a, I think she was 13 years old, we’re doing a picture and her shoulders were shaking. I asked her dad, I said, “Explain what’s wrong. Is she nervous?” He said, “No, she’s had anxieties.” She hadn’t been in school. She hadn’t had the social interaction in school.

And so it’s not only dollars and cents, visiting the capital, excursions. The emotional toll is taken on children. That’s unfair. And for government to aid and abet that, there’s no place for it.

Blair: Do you see these vaccine mandates having long-term consequences on children’s mental health?

Norman: Oh, yeah. I think it’s going to be up to the parents to try to alleviate that. I tell you, midterms couldn’t come quick enough. You cannot trust these people with power. You cannot give them the reins of power. They’ve weaponized the COVID pandemic. They have used this as a lever to punish the very people that are paying their salaries. And that’s the thing I hate about it the most.

And hopefully, though, the ray of sunshine is, as has happened in Virginia, I think this year we’ll put people in office that will make commonsense decisions to let each state decide what they want to do and advocate for that. Because if we don’t, we lose our country. And that’s such a sad thing.

Blair: One of the other things you write in your letter is, “Like the Democrat lockdowns of 2020, the latest left-wing vaccine passport fad will not prevent the virus from spreading.” Some of this language, obviously, is targeting directly some of the left-leaning mayors of these large cities. Like you mentioned, my hometown of Portland, Oregon, has had some pretty stringent restrictions in place. Have you heard anything back from Mayor Bowser’s office regarding this letter and maybe the steps they’re going to take?

Norman: I have not. And it’s like so many of this administration, not only do they avoid the issues publicly, they don’t answer any typed questions.

We’ve written [Attorney General] Merrick Garland about the holding of the January 6th prisoners without a trial. We had a conference this morning about the videotape, releasing that. That’s the public’s right to know.

But I doubt Mayor Bowser’s going to respond. I hope she does. But regardless, the people affected the most ought to be on her doorstep saying, “Enough is enough. When’s it going to end?” and demand some answers for us. Again, she works for the taxpayers. It’s up to Congress to use whatever powers we can to rein her in. And I hope we’ll do that.

Blair: Now, following up on that, I’m curious, we’ve been talking a little bit about some of these government officials who seem to have a problem with accountability and transparency. Why do you think Mayor Bowser specifically will not respond to commentary? Why won’t she respond to your questions?

Norman: I think she’s being directed, to be honest with you. The same question I have, why won’t the [Food and Drug Administration] give us the documents … when the vaccines were approved in 108 days, why won’t they give us that information? Exclude the proprietary information, but provide the information so that the public will have more confidence in the vaccines that they get. We haven’t heard from them.

Well, the court made them answer. Seventy-six years to release the information? I think we’ve got a thing called email. I think we can scan documents in. I don’t think it takes 76 years to get documents.

But that’s the absurdity of it. And it’s the arrogance of power to not respond to a letter from elected officials. Whether you agree with it or not, you respond, back up your position. That hasn’t happened.

… It’s reached a boiling point, to be honest with you, with conservatives in Congress. Democrats love that, because most of them have never been in the private sector. [President] Joe Biden spent, what, 50 years in the political realm where he’s gotten a paycheck every month? A lot of businesses can’t say that. And as I mentioned earlier, the income is down 57% on most businesses. And it’s got a ripple effect. And then when you combine everything else, there is a breaking point.

I think we’re at that point with the businesses, with the inflation, with the lack of getting goods. If we don’t change it, then we’ll have to leave—which is good for South Carolina because we welcome the businesses. It’s good for North Carolina, Georgia, the Southern states. It’s not so good for the ones that are leaving, but hopefully they’ll leave their politics where they came from.

A lot of people that come in to our state from other areas, they forgot the reason that they left and try to bring the liberal policies. But no, it’s time for we the people to stand up.

Blair: Now, to play devil’s advocate, some people might argue that these vaccine mandates will make people feel safer, that you’re sitting in a restaurant, you can trust the person next to you has been vaccinated. And if you’re somebody that has concerns about maybe sitting next to somebody who isn’t vaccinated, your fears are allayed. What would you say to somebody who presents that argument?

Norman: Very good question. If somebody in a restaurant, and I’ve had them in elevators and in restaurants, says, “Why don’t you put your mask on?” I said, “Well, I don’t believe in masks. [Dr. Anthony] Fauci has been all over the board on whether they’re effective or not. And you can get off and not either sit beside me or you can get on another elevator. It’s your choice.” That’s what’s it, the American dream was built on choice and freedom, and that’s what we’re missing.

And I see people running outside with a mask. If that makes them feel better, knock yourself out. Put six masks on. I went to a basketball game where my grandson was playing. They had masks, but get this, it was dropped down. It’s just for the appearance of it. Now, somebody tell me, explain to me how that works, where the mask’s down here, the jaw doesn’t breathe, your mouth and your nose does.

But if it makes them feel better, wear a mask. And that’s the individual choice that people can make. It’s not for government to make.

Blair: Now, we talked a little bit about this briefly, but some of the consequences of vaccine mandates in cities that have already instituted them, like San Francisco, New York, Boston, [Los Angeles] have all instituted some form or another of a vaccine mandate. Do we see any of the after effects of those vaccine mandates?

Norman: The effects that I have heard, it has not affected the spreading of the virus, omicron or the coronavirus. And as a physician told me, wearing a mask, whether it’s a R95 mask or the simple mask, is like keeping mosquitoes out with a barbwire fence. It doesn’t work. But again, that’s a personal choice. If people want to use it, knock themselves out, use it.

Blair: There was something interesting that you mentioned earlier, that there was a bit of an interesting dynamic between the idea that you have to show your vaccine card to get into businesses and IDs, voting IDs. You tweeted recently, “Mandating people to show a vaccination card to eat, but not an ID to vote, shows how out of touch the Democrats really are.” Would you be able to elaborate on that maybe a bit more?

Norman: Sure. This whole HR 1, or the voter rights, as this administration says, is all about giving people the right to vote. Well, if you drill down on that and bring up the one question, “Do you believe in photo voter ID to vote?”—and the latest round of what this bill will do will gut our election system. Total control by the federal government, illegal aliens vote, same-day voter registration, felons vote, it’s crazy.

Now, if you go off into the vaccine mandate again, that’s a personal choice. I know people all over, Doug, that have had the virus, that have gotten their natural immunities. It had an effect on them, particularly the young people. And why should they be forced to basically get the vaccination? And it’s such hypocrisy.

Look at the 1.8 million [illegal immigrants] that are coming across this border … where’s the mandate for them? When I went to McAllen, Texas, and I’ve been twice, they’re not getting vaccinated. They’re not showing any photo ID to get on an airplane. It took up 100 seats out of 120, and all they had was a cardboard sign saying, “I can’t speak English.”

And this administration is shipping them all over the country, which is so unfair for the police department. But that’s who the Democrats want to vote. And they want to be able to do it like we’ve never seen before.

If this voter ID, if the latest round of legislation that they’re pushing to end the filibuster on passes, we lose our country. We’ll be like a Venezuela, Cuba, China.

Blair: Let’s talk about that filibuster a little bit more. There’s been some statements from Senate Majority Leader Chuck Schumer about the future of the filibuster. And recently, of course, President Joe Biden also stood against the filibuster in a recent speech. How does that make you feel about the future of the filibuster?

Norman: Well, they’re hypocrites. How can you have one position when you were not in power, and now … you want to weaponize the voting system and take away our rights and do away with it? What’s changed? What’s changed is their thirst for power trumps everything, and that’s what they are trying to get.

And I will say, I hope Sens. Joe Manchin and Kyrsten Sinema will stand firm, as they did on the “Build Back Broke.” They stood tall on that. They shouldn’t have passed that. It’s easy to spend taxpayers’ money. What about offsets? What about the $29 trillion and counting that we’re already in debt for? That’s not fair to our children or grandchildren. It’s not fair to young people like you. But it’s something we’ve got to address, and whether we do it or not, it’s up to people like us to do it. And I think we will.

Blair: Continuing on with that topic of maybe the government’s in places it shouldn’t be, do you see a risk of overreaching government power when issues like vaccine mandates come up?

Norman: It’s already here. It’s not just in vaccine mandates. Look at the regulations that this government has put into place. Ask anybody that’s trying to, particularly Washington, D.C., get a building permit, what they have to go through. You look at how they weaponize government to fight against the very people that are paying their salaries. And I mentioned the FDA not releasing the documents. It’s ludicrous.

But it’s already there, and we’ve got to voice our opinions to the chamber of commerces, to the conservative groups. Heritage Foundation has done a fantastic job of recruiting commonsense conservatives. We’re right, they’re wrong. It’s all about controlling power with them. But now we got to do it systematically. And we’ve got to take it issue by issue with this voter fraud that they’re trying to perpetrate on people. We got to show it out, but list what it is. It’s not voter suppression, it’s just the right to vote is what’s at stake here.

Blair: One final question for you, Congressman. As somebody who is in a legislative body, the voice of the people, how should Congress specifically respond to omicron and coronavirus as we are going through this?

Norman: One, I think we need to get the therapeutics. We’ve been in it long enough now that we ought to have therapeutics to cure it. Instead of suppress the ivermectin cure for a lot of people, hydroxychloroquine cure for a lot of people, we ought to have an open discussion about that and not suppress that.

Now, the Big Pharma may not like it because aspirin is inexpensive, ivermectin is inexpensive, hydroxychloroquine. But if it works on the patient, it saves a life, and if you get it early—that’s why we’ve got to have the discussion. That’s what’s being shut down by government, and in particularly this administration. They’re shutting down any discussion.

I was one of the ones with the front line doctors, who you had a M.D. who was talking about hydroxychloroquine and the effect it has on her patients. That’s all she was talking about, and we got banned. And I think, again, we got to rise up and say, “Enough is enough.” And if your physician says this could be effective, then why not use it?

So, we’ve got so many things we’ve got to address, but it’s not going to happen unless we get our voice back.

But the positive news is I think we are, I think people are getting involved. Young people like you and others are excited. You’ve seen the downside of what a broken government does in your home state. And I’m seeing other people are seeing it. And unfortunately, we’re seeing it at the nation’s capital. And now it’s time we can do something about it. And the conservatives will.

Blair: Excellent. Congressman Ralph Norman, who represents South Carolina’s 5th Congressional District. Congressman, I really appreciate your time.

Norman: Thank you.

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