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New Mexico Rep. Yvette Herrell has teamed up with fellow Republican Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene of Georgia on a bill that would strip schools of federal money if they mandate the COVID-19 vaccine.
Because the University of New Mexico and New Mexico State University announced this week that there will be at least a partial vaccine requirement on their campuses this fall, the bill could potentially stop the flow of hundreds of millions of dollars to the two largest universities in the state.
Greene introduced the We Will Not Comply Act on April 1. On July 30, Herrell became a co-sponsor with several other Republican lawmakers. The bill seeks to prevent people from being “discriminated against based on their COVID-19 vaccination status.”
The legislation says if a person is discriminated against for not being vaccinated or refusing to wear a mask, he or she can seek damages in U.S. District Court. It also says that any school – from elementary through higher education – would not receive federal funding if they require the vaccine as a condition to attend or participate in any academic or extracurricular activity.
“I believe forced vaccines are wrong & punishing unvaxxed people with any type of segregation & discrimination is wrong,” Greene wrote on Twitter.
The bill would also prohibit air carriers from requiring the vaccine.
UNM President Garnett Stokes announced Monday evening that the state’s flagship university would have a vaccine requirement this fall. New Mexico State University officials announced Tuesday that all employees would have to be fully vaccinated by the end of September or undergo weekly testing, and that an announcement on a vaccine or testing requirement for students would be coming soon.
UNM budget documents show that in 2021-22, the school’s main campus budget contains $194 million in federal appropriations, which makes up a little more than 20% of the campus’ $862 million budget. It wasn’t clear Tuesday how much federal funding NMSU is set to receive this year.
Cinnamon Blair, a spokeswoman for UNM, said the university relies on federal appropriations and can’t support any legislation that “undermines public health protections for our Lobos and our state.”
“The citizens of New Mexico benefit greatly from the groundbreaking advancements in many areas of federally funded UNM research – such as cancer treatment, substance use disorders and sustainable water resources, to name a few,” she said. “Additionally, federal dollars support student success through scholarships, grants and programming.”
She said the policy is intended to keep the campus community safe.
Including Herrell, there are now 10 Republican lawmakers co-sponsoring Greene’s bill, which will have little chance of success, given that Democrats control both chambers and the White House.
“Rep. Herrell knows that discriminating against unvaccinated people is scientifically unnecessary and divisive. New Mexico educational institutions will not lose any federal money if they refrain from unconstitutionally and unjustly discriminating against people,” Billy Gribbin, a spokesman for Herrell, said in an email. “Rep. Herrell believes that medical decisions are best left between patients and their doctors, and is glad that everyone in New Mexico who wants a vaccine has access to it.”
The Democratic Party of New Mexico called the bill dangerous.
“Congresswoman Herrell is playing partisan games and actively undermining life-saving efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” DPNM Chair Jessica Velasquez said in a statement. “As COVID cases continue to spike, this deference to conspiracy theorists and extremists is not only unacceptable, but also dangerous for all Americans.”