Biden Urges Others to Impose Vaccine Mandates

The President is looking for any leverage he can to get refuseniks vaccinated.

President Joe Biden, joined by Johnson & Johnson CEO Alex Gorsky and Merck CEO Ken Frazier, delivers remarks on COVID-19 vaccine production Wednesday, March 10, 2021, in the South Court Auditorium in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building at the White House. (Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz)
Official White House Photo by Adam Schultz

The most powerful man on the planet wants Americans to get vaccinated against COVID-19 and hopes somebody will make them. POLITICO:

President Joe Biden on Monday pressed businesses and public leaders to implement vaccine mandates after the federal government issued its first full approval of a Covid-19 vaccine.

The Food and Drug Administration early Monday approved Pfizer’s two-dose vaccine for people 16 and older, a step beyond the emergency-use authorization under which the shot has been available since late 2020.

“I’m calling on more companies in the private sector to step up with vaccine requirements that will reach millions more people,” Biden said in remarks at the White House. “If you’re a business leader, a nonprofit leader, a state or local leader, who has been waiting for full FDA approval to require vaccinations, I call on you now to do that — require it. It only makes sense to require a vaccine to stop the spread of Covid-19.”

A huge number of businesses have already done this, of course. And many states have required schoolteachers and the faculty, staff, and students at state universities get vaccinated as a condition of being on campus. (The University of Virginia just expelled a couple of hundred student holdouts.) There’s simply no question that they have the right to do this.

For his part, Biden has already ordered that civilian employees of the federal government who aren’t vaccinated would be required to mask and get regular testing and his Secretary of Defense followed up a few days later issuing the same requirement for the uniformed military.

But the huge obstacle is that some of our most unvaccinated states, including behemoths Texas and Florida, are led by morons who are not only refusing to issue vaccine requirements they’ve made countermeasures like mask requirements and vaccine passports illegal.

Whether the President can do anything about this is simply uncharted territory. A recent Congressional Research Service report tells us,

Certain existing authorities, however, could potentially form the basis of executive action in the context of the COVID-19 pandemic. One such law could be Section 361 of the PHSA. Subsection (a) of this provision, which one court has characterized as “broad [and] flexible,”grants the Secretary of HHS the authority—delegated in part to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC)—to make and enforce regulations necessary “to prevent the introduction, transmission, or spread of communicable diseases from foreign countries into the States or possessions, or from one State or possession into any other State or possession.” A broad construction of this authority may permit CDC to issue regulations requiring vaccination in circumstances that would prevent the foreign or interstate transmission of COVID-19. The Constitution and other generally applicable statutory requirements, such as the Administrative Procedure Act and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act of 1993 (RFRA), would nevertheless constrain CDC’s exercise of this authority.

They go on to note, though, that a narrower reading is also arguable. They’re more bullish on the power of Congress to act:

Applying its authority in the context of a vaccination mandate, Congress could encourage states to enact a vaccination mandate meeting certain federal requirements by imposing it as a condition of receiving certain federal funds. This use of the Spending Clause authority, assuming it falls within the broad parameters of being for the “general welfare,” would be permissible so long as (1) Congress provides clear notice of the vaccination mandate that states must enact; (2) the mandate is related to the purpose of the federal funds; (3) this conditional grant of funds is not otherwise barred by the Constitution; and (4) the amount of federal funds offered is not “so coercive as to pass the point at which pressure turns into compulsion.”

They cite other avenues as well, but this strikes me as the simplest. Alas, there’s no chance in hell that Senate Republicans go along with this, so it’s only a theoretical power.

It may well be time for Biden to simply act and make Republican governors sue him to find out whether he has the power to make it stick.

FILED UNDER: COVID-19, Government, Joe Biden, US Politics
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College and a nonresident senior fellow at the Scowcroft Center for Strategy and Security at the Atlantic Council. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm vet. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.

Comments

  1. gVOR08 says:

    Alas, there’s no chance in hell that Senate Republicans go along with this, so it’s only a theoretical power.

    The fact that common sense acts of governance are impossible in this country because of the Republican Party seems like it should get more attention in the press than it does.

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  2. Scott says:

    As the Revolt of the Vaccinated keeps rolling in Texas, schools are now open and many (mostly in urban areas) have mask mandates and some are rolling out vaccine mandates. San Antonio ISD has mandated vaccination by Oct 15th and reminded employees that that means first shot in by Sept 10th.

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  3. mattbernius says:

    But the huge obstacle is that some of our most unvaccinated states, including behemoths Texas and Florida, are led by morons who are not only refusing to issue vaccine requirements they’ve made countermeasures like mask requirements and vaccine passports illegal.

    On the plus side, my understanding is, at least in Texas, the emergency legislation was written in such a way that once the FDA approved a vaccine it was no longer able to be restricted.
    source: https://www.texastribune.org/2021/08/23/texas-pfizer-vaccine-approval/

    Time will tell if they have to pass further emergency legislation to prevent local mandates (and if they do, then it could open up a really giant can of works for other approved vaccines).

    To head off some potential anti-vaxxers, and to appreciate how science works, this article in Nature is worth a look. It has an amazing timeline visualization right at the start that traces the roots of this RNA from the discovery of RNA in 1961.

    https://www.nature.com/articles/s41578-021-00358-0

    Also, in case anyone wants to pony up to the bar with “BuT, vAcCiNeS aRe WhY wE hAvE DeLtA ShEePlEz*!!!!!!”, this well-sourced article from Science-Based Medicine is worth a scan:
    https://sciencebasedmedicine.org/are-vaccines-driving-the-emergence-of-escape-mutant-variants-of-covid-19/

    * – There’s a great meme going around that reads “The people who called you a ‘sheep’ for getting vaccinated against covid are now fighting covid by taking a deworming medicine intended for — and I can’t stress this enough — SHEEP.”

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  4. mattbernius says:

    Also, splitting posts to avoid getting flagged for moderation, I wanted to share a great data visualization of Oklahoma C-19 Hospital Admissions in the past 30 days that visually demonstrates the vaccines’ efficacy:
    https://twitter.com/SSMHealthSaints/status/1428753599023173656

    Also, before anyone wants to put race into this, yes Blacks and Hispanics/Latinex currently lag whites in % of total populations who have received at least one dose of the vaccine. And it is also the case that the gaps are closing and, in recent months, they are being vaccinated at a higher rate than the white population.

    These current patterns reflect growing shares of vaccinations going to Hispanic and Black people over time. Between March 1 and August 16, the share of vaccinations going to Hispanic people increased in all states reporting data for both periods and increased for Black people in most reporting states. In a few cases, these increases were large.

    […]

    Between August 2 and August 16, Black and Hispanic people experienced a slightly larger increase in vaccination rates compared to White and Asian people (Figure 4). Vaccination rates increased by 2.6 percentage points for Hispanic people, from 42.6% to 45.1%, and by 2.5 percentage points for Black people, from 37.8% to 40.3%, while vaccination rates increased by 1.3 percentage points for Asian people and by 1.6 percentage points for White people over the past two weeks (from 65.8% to 67.1% and from 48.8% to 50.4%, respectively). The slightly larger increases in rates for Black and Hispanic people continued to narrow the gap in vaccination rates between these groups and White people.

    Source: https://www.kff.org/coronavirus-covid-19/issue-brief/latest-data-on-covid-19-vaccinations-race-ethnicity/

    Time will tell how FDA approval will shift these rates–and give us a better sense about how much of these patterns were due to hesitancy versus resistance (or simply access).

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  5. KM says:

    Once insurance starts informing business about how much it’s gonna cost them to not have a vaccine mandate, we’ll see more rapid adoption. All that weakening of the healthcare system and the ACA is gonna bit the GOP in the ass because once insurance and healthcare systems can start unloading the cost of the unvaxxed onto businesses, you better believe they’re gonna make sure it sticks. Rates and penalties will skyrocket and it will put small companies out of business if they have unvaxxed working for them; natural selection will start to occur as idiots start to weed themselves out of the application pool or get fired for costing the business too much behavioral problems at work.

    They may have had a chance at a social pass before this thing became endemic. It might have been a one and done they didn’t need a vax on if they just had complied with protocols to help contain it. However, since they’ve let this spread out beyond hope of curtailing with their selfish behavior it’s now something society has to live with forever and no insurance company is forking over money constantly for this sort of reoccurring plague.

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  6. Sleeping Dog says:

    …Congress could encourage states to enact a vaccination mandate meeting certain federal requirements by imposing it…

    While I agree that senate R’s are a likely obstacle in using funding threats, it would be worth giving it a try. There is a subset of R senators who are vax advocates, including Moscow Mitch, and it would be interesting to find out if there were 10 or maybe 12. If the effort fails, Dems then have a point of attack for campaign ads.

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  7. Kathy says:

    Conspiracy theorists are immune to evidence.

    For the rest, think a minute. Hundreds of millions of people have received two doses of the Pfizer BioNTech vaccine all over the world over several months. If there were any issues with this vaccine, they’d have surfaced by now, as blood clotting issues with J&J and AstraZeneca did.

    Other than a valid medical reason, like immune system disorders and allergies, there is no reason to keep waiting to get a shot.

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  8. mattbernius says:

    @Kathy:

    Conspiracy theorists are immune to evidence.

    Correct. However the vaccine-hesitant most likely are. And they represent a not insignificant portion of the currently vaccinated.

    https://www.prri.org/research/religious-vaccines-covid-vaccination/

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  9. Teve says:

    Just for entertainment i thought I’d check out some of the conspiracy theories. The most entertaining one so far is a dude named Michael Yeadon who legit used to work at Pfizer, who said the “vaccine” is really a depopulation agent and within 2 years of getting the booster you’ll die!!!

    And there was something on Twitter about how if you get the vaxx your feet will explode off your body. Not sure how that’s supposed to work.

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  10. KM says:

    @Teve:
    My current fav is the one where the vax makes you glow under a black light. First of all, wtf purpose would that supposedly serve that an evil conspiracy would need to include it? They’re already marking you with the chip / 5G/ gene alteration/ whatever so there’s no purpose in it other than “yes we can”. Personally, I think it’s because black lights are associated with “satanic” things in their minds so it must be an evil marker.

    Second, that sounds awesome! Can you imagine having some form of bioluminescence or reflecting various wavelengths of light? Think of the energy bill savings! Never getting lost in the dark again or tripping on things at night! Hell, even just the aesthetics of it would be a new line of fashion and self-expression. If it becomes inconvenient, you can just cover up with clothes and no more glow – bare more skin and let your inner light shine. I’m sure there’s some downsides somewhere but can’t think of one right off the bat…..

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  11. Mu Yixiao says:

    @Teve:

    And there was something on Twitter about how if you get the vaxx your feet will explode off your body. Not sure how that’s supposed to work.

    That happens when you shoot yourself in the food by being an idiot.

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  12. Teve says:

    @KM: bioluminescence will look sweet when I’m drifting my car around PDX at night!

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  13. JKB says:

    I would caution to step back and look at the destination that so many are moving toward, step by unthinking step. I understand the fear. This mean old virus will kill an ‘elite’ old fat person as easily as an old fat person of the masses. The early superspreader “society” events caused terror among the “betters”. But fear should not be permitted to overwhelm discipline of intellect, regulation of emotions or established principles. Convince all you want, but these moves toward compulsion will provoke a long, and deep, rift in society. Assuming you avoid the great leap forward.

    From a Free Thoughts interview [How Mao Broke China (with Frank Dikötter) Oct 2019]

    18:00 Frank Dikötter: The key point about the Great Leap Forward is really… I mean, Li Rui, Mao’s secretary, put it… He passed away earlier this year, wonderful man, I think he lived to the age of 100. He said it in a review of Mao’s Great Famine, my book, he said, “The core reason of all this is because human beings didn’t treat other human beings like human beings, they were treated just like cattle.”

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  14. mattbernius says:

    Great “tell me your anti-C19-vax without specifically writing that you are anti-vax” posts. Always good to know where folks are.

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  15. Teve says:

    @mattbernius: I can’t tell What any of that gibberish he typed meant.

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  16. Kathy says:

    @KM:

    It would be useful to have a vaccine leave a visible, temporary physical mark on those vaccinated.

    But something readily visible, not just under UV light.

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  17. grumpy realist says:

    @Kathy: Well, the longer this carries on with the idiots refusing vaccines, the distinction will be obvious: those that are vaccinated are those who are walking around.

    ….the non-vaccinated will be six feet under.

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  18. mattbernius says:

    @Teve:
    Basically, he’s implying that Covid-19 vaccine mandates* will lead to communism, which in turn, leads to mass starvation because of expert opinions**.

    It’s all in line with his general Bircher schtick:

    Taking down Confederate Monuments leads to Communism
    Critical Race Theory -> Communism
    Public and Higher Education -> Communism
    Tech Industry -> Communism
    Listening to Experts** & Bureaucrats -> Communism
    When Democrats win free and fair elections… you better believe that’s Communism

    Basically, as he’s gotten older, he’s essentially become our Grandpa Simpson seeing Communism (instead of death, though to be fair he sees it as a sort of death) stalking him at every turn:

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Hmc819RMVUE

    * – I’m assuming it’s just Covid-19 vaccine mandates… but who knows with him.

    ** – Note that he isn’t against all experts. After all, he meticulously cites his posts to show us how learned he is. So it’s only experts who say things that he agrees with. They probably won’t be put up against the wall when his glorious revolution happens.

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  19. JohnSF says:

    @JKB:
    Vaccination for smallpox was compulsory in England from 1871 until the disease was eradicated.
    Civilization failed to collapse.

    (And what the hell has Mao Zedong’s idiocy to do with rational public health policy?)

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  20. David S. says:

    @JKB: So you’re saying vaccine hesitancy is actually a form of mad cow disease. Got it.

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  21. Teve says:

    @mattbernius: Jacobson v. Massachusetts, upholding mandatory smallpox vaxxing, was in 1905. There were lots of vax mandates in the 20th century. Why would this new one suddenly plunge us into communism?

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  22. Matthew Bernius says:

    @Teve:
    Because any mandate = communism in the minds of some folks.

    Also for reference, he also recently positively cited an author who argued chattel slavery was better than communism because slave owners had to treat their property with some “respect”… so that might suggest some internal calibration problems.

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  23. Michael Reynolds says:

    @JKB:

    Convince all you want, but these moves toward compulsion will provoke a long, and deep, rift in society.

    If you were a provocateur who came here to remind people that MAGAts are idiots you could not do a better job of it.

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  24. Kathy says:

    @grumpy realist:

    Maybe part of the problem is that COVID isn’t deadly enough. If it had a 20% death rate among all cases, surely* people would be more careful about precautions, and perhaps more willing to accept activity restrictions and lockdown.

    On the other hand, the numbers from the 1918 H1N1 Flu pandemic argue otherwise. There were maskholes then, too.

    *I tend to be an optimist.

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  25. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: At my age and heath history, that’s not much of a disincentive. Worst case scenario for me is that emphysema is on the way. His offer sounds pretty good by comparison. Dead on some approximate known date? I can work with that.

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  26. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve: That was my take. Question: Has Sarah Palin started a punditry school/course?

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  27. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @mattbernius: “They probably won’t be put up against the wall when his glorious revolution happens.”

    Yeah, right. 🙁

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  28. James Joyner says:

    @gVOR08:

    The fact that common sense acts of governance are impossible in this country because of the Republican Party seems like it should get more attention in the press than it does.

    The blow-by-blow gets an incredible amount of coverage. But overarching narrative is anathema to the longstanding “objective” model of American journalism. That began to change under Trump but not necessarily for the good.

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  29. KM says:

    Poll: More unvaccinated Americans blame vaccinated Americans for the Delta surge than blame themselves

    Shocker, amirite? They blame Biden first, then anti-maskers, then social media, then CDC, then the vaccinated for some damn reason and finally themselves (6 measly percent). Everybody but themselves because hey, even if they point fingers at anti-maskers, they can say they’re one of the “good ones” that follows the rules (even if they don’t) so their decision not to vax is less important then fighting the mask battle. Never mind the same stupid arguments are being used for anti-masking, shifting blame is the name of the game. The mandates will give them some cover on that.

    In the end, they’ll run out of social wiggle room and be “forced” to get the shot in order to keep their job / participate in society. They’ll bitch and they’ll whine and insist none of this was their fault but you know what? Don’t care anymore. You’re not going to reach people who blame everyone else for their behavior – you don’t get serial drunk drivers to stop by preaching at them. You take the damn car keys and license away and if they choose to drive anyways, that’s what the law and jail is for. @JKB notes they’ll resent the hell out of being “forced” and it will drive a permanent social split but that’s not a bad thing in the end. If you’re so dedicated to doing the wrong thing and hurting others, then the stick was the only option ever available. The mandates mean the stick’s got a bit more power behind its’ swing, that’s all…..

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  30. KM says:

    A side note: if the unvaxxed medical community decides to quit or be fired en masse rather than vax due to mandates, it will quickly resolve the whole “do we treat the unvaxxed or push them to the back of the line” debate. Since staffing would be so critical, triage would take effect and COVID patients would rank rather low as they’re resource-intensive and cannot survive long without intervention if hospitalized. Ethical or not, it will be a simple matter of being unvaxed means your survival rate drops considerably and your level of care to prevent that is too much to maintain with current resources. The beds would be occupied for too long and are simply not sustainable in a crisis situation that losing 25~% of the staff at once would be. Hospitals would effectively start turning away patients by just letting them sit in the hall outside the ER for a turn that will never come till they code on the floor and no carts & staff available due to everyone else crashing at the same time.

    In other words, unvaxxed medical staff defying mandates might drive more of the public to vax once they realize that if you get sick, it’s a death sentence. Imagine the constant videos of dozens of patients just laying on the floor dying because there’s no beds, no nurses or doctors and not a damn thing you can do about it……. besides getting the shot so it doesn’t end up being you.

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  31. JohnMcC says:

    @KM: Come from a family just jammed full of medical professionals and PhDs; some of us were texting. I asked when the military triage would be needed: Group A: They are sure to die; comfort measures. Group B: They can be saved; give the full court press. Group C: They will survive; first aid and release.

    Answer from an ER nurse: We’ve been doing that for weeks.

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  32. CSK says:

    @KM:
    And don’t forget that the vaccine also turns you into a human magnet!

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  33. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve:

    Jacobson v. Massachusetts, upholding mandatory smallpox vaxxing, was in 1905. There were lots of vax mandates in the 20th century. Why would this new one suddenly plunge us into communism?

    It wouldn’t. But I wouldn’t count on a hundred plus years of clear precedent influencing the current Supremes either. The Federalists designed “originalism” as a tool to overturn precedent.

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  34. gVOR08 says:

    @KM:

    The beds would be occupied for too long and are simply not sustainable in a crisis situation that losing 25~% of the staff at once would be.

    In June there was a lot of coverage of a group of employees suing Houston Methodist over their vax mandate. After the judge tossed the suit 150 employees quit or were fired for refusing vaccination. The Methodist system employs 26,000. I suspect there will be a lot more talk than action against vax mandates.

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  35. KM says:

    @Teve:
    Don’t you know? Communism is a recent thing so way back in the way back doesn’t count. It was created to challenge St Ronnie the same was wokeism and vaccines were created to challenge the Orange One. Anyone who tells you vaccines existed before the 00’s is lying because they cause autism and nobody heard of autism back when they were kids so how could they exist? The Commies were the Chinese who pretended to be Russia to smear Putin and the West. It’s all a lie and nobody got vaccines as kid, just shots! You got plain ol’ shots at the doctors when young, not vaccines from Big Pharma. Of course this new tyranny will lead to communism because it’s all new and there’s no historical precedent – our teachers would have told us to protect our patriotic nation if it was!!

    ….. wow, that was really easy to type. Should I be worried I can slip into stream of conscious MAGAt like that???

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  36. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    nobody heard of autism back when they were kids so how could they exist?

    Hold on a second. I was tested for autism when I was young and I’ll be 7o next year. (The story as it relates to the subject was that my score wasn’t in the range for autism. I’m probably very lucky. 3o or 40 years later I’d have been in with the kids who the system keeps until they’re 21 and ended up being lucky to be hired at Mickey D’s. And believing I was lucky for that, too. I’ve worked post high school special ed. It’s very scary for me. I look at those kids and see that they’re not that much different from what I was at 17. Yikes!)

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  37. Rick DeMent says:

    @Kathy:

    Maybe part of the problem is that COVID isn’t deadly enough. If it had a 20% death rate among all cases, surely* people would be more careful about precautions, and perhaps more willing to accept activity restrictions and lockdown.

    Or cause horrible disfiguring boils on ones face. That would do the trick even if it wasn’t
    deadly.

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  38. dazedandconfused says:

    Darwin reacts by getting busy.

    Prominent 1/6 defense attorney, Rittenhouse’s fired lawyer, strident anti-vaxer
    and one of Tucker Carlson’s favorite people, John Pierce “on ventilator and unresponsive”.

    Forgive me lord…but I must do this.

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