The head of the House’s conservative caucus is the latest Republican lawmaker to criticize the Biden administration for expanded tracking of federal employees who seek an exemption from a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

“President [Joe] Biden must rescind his unconstitutional COVID-19 vaccine mandates,” House Freedom Caucus Chairman Andy Biggs, R-Ariz., told The Daily Signal in a written statement.  

A new regulation added to the Federal Register on Tuesday would require Commerce Department employees seeking a medical exemption from the mandate to file a form for a disability accommodation. 

The rule says the Commerce Department would use the form “to make a recommendation to the supervisor based on the medical information provided in the form.” 

The proposal comes as the Biden administration considers keeping a list of those who apply for religious exemptions to the president’s vaccine mandate for federal employees. 

“Any effort to systematically track requested exemptions from the mandates should be opposed,” Biggs told The Daily Signal. “The Biden administration must allow individual Americans to make their own health care decisions regarding COVID-19.”

The Daily Signal first reported the Commerce Department regulation Wednesday. 

The proposed agency rule would create a record of all employees who seek a medical exemption from Biden’s vaccine mandate. The new rule will be the subject of public comment until March 28. 

The Commerce Department has about 47,000 employees and an $11.4 billion annual budget. 

Two other GOP lawmakers who have publicly faulted the federal government’s COVID-19 response—Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., and Rep. Chip Roy, R-Texas—also criticized the Commerce Department rule in statements Wednesday to The Daily Signal. 

“First it was tracking religious dissenters, now it is those who—for the best interest of their health—are advised not to get the COVID-19 vaccine,” Roy said. “This is just the latest addition to the ever-growing list of abuses from an administration hellbent on imposing medical tyranny on the American people.”

Johnson said the Commerce Department’s move would undermine the personal liberty of federal employees. 

“Treating COVID-19 medical exemptions as ‘disability accommodations’ shows how little the Biden administration and the COVID gods value liberty and informed consent,” the Wisconsin Republican said. 

In the short term, the Biden administration’s move might be a moot point, because a federal judge last week blocked the administration from enforcing the president’s executive order that every federal worker must be vaccinated. 

The Daily Signal first reported Jan. 11 that the Biden administration was testing a policy at a small federal agency, the Pretrial Services Agency for the District of Columbia, that likely would serve as a model for government-assembled lists of Americans who object to taking the COVID-19 vaccines on religious grounds. 

Four days later, The Daily Signal reported that 18 other federal agencies are considering doing so. 

The Commerce Department’s proposed rule states: “Requests for ‘medical accommodation’ or ‘medical exceptions’ will be treated as requests for a disability accommodation and evaluated and decided under applicable Rehabilitation Act standards for reasonable accommodation absent undue hardship to the agency.”

A spokesperson from the Commerce Department did not respond to The Daily Signal’s inquiries for this report, or for the original report Wednesday. 

The Office of Management and Budget, which oversees regulations placed on the Federal Register, asserted that the government will protect employee privacy.

“To process an employee’s medical exception, agencies need to collect certain information, including, for example, the employee’s name, the request for an exception and, if they are provided one, that they have been granted an exception,” an OMB spokesperson told The Daily Signal.

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