Sen. Mike Lee supports the use of vaccine passports by private businesses

He says the government should not be able to require proof of vaccination for citizens.

(Susan Walsh | AP file photo) Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, says it's perfectly fine if private companies want to require customers to have a vaccine passport to prove they've been vaccinated against the coronavirus, but the federal government should not be able to impose similar requirements.

Republicans are attacking the Biden administration over efforts to develop vaccination passports for those who have been inoculated against the coronavirus. The passports would allow businesses to screen whether customers have received the coronavirus vaccine or tested negative for the virus. Sen. Mike Lee says there’s nothing wrong if private companies want to use such tools.

“I think vaccines are good, and I think once people have gotten a vaccine that they have the ability to present credentials to private property owners who might decide they want their customers to have been vaccinated,” he said.

But, Lee’s support for the idea is not carte blanche. He says the government should not have the ability to use that information to restrict the movement of citizens.

“You don’t ever want to get us in a position where our own government is playing any part in the way human beings move within our own borders. That’s something the American people, regardless of their political leanings, don’t want,” warned Lee.

He did clarify that he did not see checks by the Transportation Security Administration at airports as running afoul of his stance, as they’re a necessary security measure.

Opposition to the idea of vaccine passports has been growing, primarily among Republicans. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis said it was “completely unacceptable” for either businesses or the government to require proof that someone is virus-free, and plans to take emergency action to block businesses from requiring proof of vaccines.

Georgia Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene, best known as the QAnon congresswoman, became the subject of scorn when she called vaccine passports “Biden’s Mark of the Beast.” She also said, oxymoronically, any business requiring such proof of vaccination was participating in “corporate communism.”

Lee said he was not aware of Greene’s comments but said such overcharged rhetoric is usually not helpful when deciding public policy.

“I don’t know who said that, but those are not the words I would have chosen,” he said. “You don’t throw around words like ’communism’ unless you’re talking about government, and big government getting involved in mandating that is different than a business making that decision.”

The Biden administration said this week that the government would not build a national vaccination passport, leaving that to the private sector. Experts say they expect high demand for proof of vaccination as businesses seek to return to normal.

The passports could be used to show people have received a COVID vaccination before attending a sporting event, concerts, restaurants, or even boarding an airplane. New York has unveiled a digital pass to allow users to prove they’ve been vaccinated or tested negative.

Lee said if a business decides to require customers to show a vaccination passport, they have every right to do so, and the market will decide whether that’s a good idea or not.

“If you’re a private business and it’s your property, it’s your choice to do that. It may or may not work as a commercial matter, but that’s their decision,” said Lee.

The full interview with Lee can be heard on this week’s “Utah Politics” podcast, which will be published Friday.