Lee’s latest foray into the city was his introduction of a resolution to block D.C. Council legislation allowing minors determined by a doctor to be capable of informed consent to seek government-recommended vaccinations that their parents object to on religious grounds.
But what about Lee’s full-throated embrace of federalism?
In a 2018 speech, Lee touted a federalism that “would allow each state to govern itself according to its own values.” Lee’s idea of federalism encompassed more than the federal and state governments. In that same speech, he declared: “We should allow each unique community to develop unique solutions according to unique local preferences, and leave it at that.”
Unfortunately, when it comes to the unique community that is the District, which has no voting representation in Congress, Lee is not content to “leave it at that.”
Instead, Lee is, in the words of D.C. Del. Eleanor Holmes Norton (D), “a chronic abuser of Congress’ anti-democratic power over D.C.” Norton has vowed to defeat Lee’s latest assault, and her track record is good. She notes that she has not lost a fight against a congressional disapproval resolution since 1991.
Norton should win this one, too.
The District is not an outlier when it comes to giving children legal access to vaccines without their parents’ permission. When the bill was passed in October, The Post’s Julie Zauzmer noted Pew research showing that in Alabama, Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and South Carolina, minors can make all health-care decisions for themselves, “though the age at which the laws apply varies.” Some minors in California, Delaware, Minnesota and New York, according to Pew, can also seek vaccinations on their own, but only against sexually transmitted infections.
Even today, D.C. youths can legally access, without a parent’s involvement, medical services such as substance-abuse and mental health counseling and birth control. The council’s bill passed 12 to 1. The dissenting vote was cast by Council member Trayon White Sr. (D-Ward 8), who argued the law set the age at which it applies — 11 and up — too low. “Parents have a fundamental right to direct the upbringing, education and care of their children,” White said.
The city’s public health vaccination policy was a science-based decision. Vaccines are a public health miracle, but — as we are all learning as we wait to reach herd immunity in the fight against covid-19 — they require broad-based public buy-in to beat back disease. The D.C. chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics, which supported the bill opposed by Lee, said vaccination rates at D.C. public schools range from 87 to 93 percent; at some charter schools, the rate has gone below 85 percent. That is an important and proper concern for a local governing body answerable to the community affected.
But that’s of little moment to Lee. D.C.-bashing is his thing.
In 2018, for example, Lee introduced legislation to prohibit the District from denying benefits, contracts and the like to individuals, nonprofits and for-profits that discriminate against LGBTQ people, based on religious belief or moral conviction. Lee got attention, but little else. The bill died. He also was defeated in efforts to undo D.C.’s occupational licensing laws and sharply curb abortion rights in the city.
That didn’t stop him from making himself into a one-man wrecking crew.
Today’s polarized Congress can’t seem to agree on anything, except maybe recess.
But last year, during a bruising election season, a bipartisan effort to establish a National Museum of the American Latino and an American Women’s History Museum on the National Mall came to fruition. It was no easy lift. A museum for Latino history had been in the works for more than two decades. A bill to create a women’s history museum was introduced in the early 2000s.
House members set aside their differences and passed the measures earlier in 2020.
The Senate took up the two House-approved bills in December. Sen. Robert Menendez (D-N.J.), sponsor of the National Museum of the American Latino, and Sen. Susan Collins (R-Maine), sponsor of the American Women’s History Museum, asked the Senate to unanimously pass both bills. The Senate was prepared to say yes.
The measures, however, failed at the hands of Sen. Mike Lee. Arguing that the two bills would “further divide an already divided nation,” the women’s and Latino museums were killed by Lee’s solitary objection. (They were later revived during passage of omnibus legisation at the end of 2020.)
A more objectionable member of Congress might be hard to find.
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