Gov. Ricketts grilled by member of House subcommittee on COVID-19 response
(WOWT) - Appearing before a Congressional subcommittee discussing states’ response to COVID-19 on Thursday afternoon, Nebraska Gov. Pete Ricketts found himself in the hot seat about mask and vaccination requirements.
The U.S. representatives are looking into how the governors of different states have been responding to the pandemic and the spread of the highly contagious omicron variant. They want to know what’s been working and — most importantly — what’s saved lives.
Congressman Steve Scalise, citing a Politico article stating that Nebraska ranked No. 1 for COVID-19 response, offered Ricketts kudos. But the governor faced harsh criticism from others on the committee, asking about his statements about the Omaha mask mandate as well as vaccination requirements.
Applauding Ricketts for publicizing his vaccination status, Congressman Raja Krishnamoorthi, D-Ill., pressed the governor about his political rhetoric on COVID-related topics, citing a tweet about President Biden.
“There’s plenty of political rhetoric to go around,” the governor said.
“And you are one of the primary sources of this heated political rhetoric,” Krishnamoorthi replied.
The Congressman questioned Ricketts about whether he had withheld funding from cities declaring mask mandates. The governor said he hasn’t, clarifying that the Omaha mask mandate did not apply to government buildings, so he had no reason to follow through on previous statements suggesting that funds be withheld from cities or counties implementing mandates.
The conversation sparked a somewhat heated debate about mask and vaccine mandates.
Krishnamoorthi questioned Ricketts about employer-mandated vaccine requirements, asking the governor whether he was against such mandates.
“No, actually I believe that employers have the ability to do that, but I discourage it,” the governor said.
Calling himself “a lifelong Cubs fan,” Krishnamoorthi pointed out he had something in common with the governor.
“I did not know that. Thank you for being a fan,” Ricketts said.
But the Congressman quickly returned to pressing the governor on vaccination requirements, noting that the Cubs organization, which Ricketts acknowledged is owned by his family’s trust, required vaccinations for its employees and that masking was required indoors at Wrigley Field.
Ricketts said he wasn’t aware of the Cubs vaccination requirement.
Watch an excerpt from Thursday’s committee meeting
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