“I don’t understand how Republicans who say they’re for states rights won’t support what my colleagues are talking about, because what this bill does is we decriminalize at the federal level, but we don’t require states to legalize,” added Sen. Ron Wyden. (Photo by Joe Raedle/Getty Images)
WASHINGTON — Members of Congress were among the first people in the U.S. to have access to the sought-after COVID-19 vaccine when the initial doses became available in December.
Three months later, a States Newsroom survey across 22 states—making up a large swath of Congress— found at least 155 members of the U.S. House and Senate, including each member of Nevada’s congressional delegation, have been vaccinated, based on a tally of responses from their offices and other public statements. Most, but not all, are Democrats, even as pollsters find greater hesitancy and even disinterest among Republicans in the broader U.S. adult population when it comes to the vaccine.
At least 14 legislators say they have not been vaccinated, either because they have been waiting to do so or because they don’t plan to at all. All but one are Republicans. Dozens of others among the 237 surveyed declined to share their vaccination status.
The race to inoculate the nation has become even more urgent in recent days as states loosen mask and social distancing requirements and infections in some places rise. “Our work is far from over,” President Joe Biden warned on Monday. “The war against COVID-19 is far from won. This is deadly serious.”
There’s no definitive public tally of how many lawmakers have rolled up their sleeves for a shot: Members of Congress are not under an obligation to publicly disclose their vaccination status.
But the public aspects of their elected roles are one reason that they were among the first people allowed to receive the limited doses, in line ahead of other groups.
Many of the vaccinated legislators have posted on social media about receiving a shot, seeking to build confidence for the newly authorized vaccines by showing their willingness to have a needle in their own arms.
States Newsroom found at least 155 lawmakers out of 237 representing States Newsroom’s 22 states in the U.S. House and Senate have been vaccinated. That figure includes 100 Democrats, 54 Republicans and one independent.
Another 68 lawmakers — 64 Republicans and four Democrats — declined to share, or did not respond to questions about, their vaccination status.
States Newsroom conducted the survey after House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy (R-Calif.) claimed in a letter to House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) earlier this month that “roughly 75 percent of House members have been fully vaccinated, or will be by the end of this week.” McCarthy did not specify how he obtained that estimate.
The 155 lawmakers who responded “yes” to States Newsroom account for 65% of the total lawmakers from the states surveyed. Breaking it down by chamber, 61% of the House lawmakers from those states responded that they have been vaccinated, and 84% of senators. Additional members may have been vaccinated already among those who declined to answer.
A House upended
McCarthy’s estimate that 75% of House lawmakers have been vaccinated was tucked in a letter calling for the legislative chamber to return to more normal operations.
As with other workplaces, the pandemic upended how business is conducted in Congress.
The 435 members of the House of Representatives and the 100 senators work in close quarters and travel across the country on a weekly basis, putting them at higher risk of becoming infected with COVID-19 and spreading the virus to constituents who may encounter them at home.
With the average age for House members at 58 and senators averaging 64, many lawmakers also were at increased risk of severe complications or even death if they contracted the virus. (One member of Congress, Rep. Ron Wright (R-Texas) died in February after being diagnosed with COVID-19, and Luke Letlow, who was elected to represent a Louisiana district in December, passed away from complications of the virus before he could be sworn in.)
More than 60 members of Congress have tested positive for COVID-19 since the pandemic began, according to a tally by NPR, and more have quarantined due to potential exposure.
The chamber has altered voting rules to allow members to cast a vote by proxy; they’ve extended the length of time for votes to limit how many people are in the chamber; and hearings have switched a virtual or hybrid format.
Reaching a critical mass of vaccinations among members of Congress and their staffers could allow for reversing some of those changes.
Some have been outspoken advocates for the vaccine. Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R-Iowa), who is a doctor, posted on Twitter about administering vaccines and is visiting all 24 counties in her congressional district to promote vaccinations.
Among those who haven’t received a vaccine, the reasons have varied. One common response is that the unvaccinated lawmakers previously tested positive for COVID-19.
A spokesman for Rep. Mike Kelly (R-Pa.), who tested positive in March 2020, said the congressman “is consulting with his doctor about if and when it will be appropriate to get the vaccine, particularly because he wants to ensure he can continue donating plasma to help people currently suffering with the disease.”
Rep. Ted Budd (R-N.C.), who also had COVID-19, does eventually plan to get vaccinated, according to his spokesman, Curtis Kalin. But Kalin added the congressman “felt that since he has the antibodies for a while, he was going to wait and let others get the vaccine first.”
Others, such as freshman Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.), said they don’t see a need to get a vaccin.
“She is a perfectly healthy woman and doesn’t see a reason to do so,” Greene’s spokesman, Nick Dyer, said.
Public opinion leans toward vaccination
Beyond Congress, a growing number of Americans now say they have either gotten a vaccine, or intend to do so, according to a Pew Research Center report published this month.
Among U.S. adults, 19% say they have already received at least one vaccine dose, and another 50% say they definitely or probably plan to get vaccinated. Those categories account for 69% of the public — up from 60% who said in November that they planned to get vaccinated.
But as with Congress, those vaccination intentions show differences along partisan lines. Democrats are 27 percentage points more likely than Republicans to say they plan to get or have received a coronavirus vaccine, 83% to 56%.
There also have been racial differences in who is planning to seek a vaccine, though the Pew researchers found those to be shrinking. A majority of Black Americans, 61%, now say they plan to get a COVID-19 vaccine or have already received one, up from 42% in November.
Some reports have cautioned against characterizing Black Americans as hesitant to get the vaccine, arguing that access to vaccine doses is just as much of a problem.
Rep. Cori Bush, a Black freshman Democrat from Missouri who had COVID-19, shared her own hesitation about receiving a vaccine during a video conversation she taped in January for The Root with epidemiologist and anti-racism activist Dr. Camara Phyllis.
In promoting that video conversation, Bush posted that she would be taking the vaccine, but her office did not respond to questions about whether she has since done so. In the video, Bush describes what she called the “elephant in the room, which is the reluctance of many Black people like me to even get the COVID-19 vaccine.”
“I want to keep myself safe, my family, my loved ones, my staff, and everyone around me, and my community safe,” Bush says in the video. “My thought process was, I want to take the vaccination. I was apprehensive not having enough information, and I wanted to be able to show people the kind of conversation that you can have with your healthcare provider.”
Contributing to this report were Danielle J. Brown, Tyler Buchanan, Tim Carpenter, Laura Cassels, Ruth Conniff, Clark Corbin, Susan Demas, Jeremy Duda, Darrell Ehrlick, Jason Hancock, Josh Kurtz, Jerod MacDonald-Evoy, Kate Masters, Holly McCall, Lauren McCauley, John Micek, Graham Moomaw, Wesley Muller, Jill Nolin, Kathie Obradovich, Diane Rado, Rob Schofield, Gracie Stockton, Annmarie Timmins, Sarah Vogelsong, Quentin Young and Robert Zullo.
Here’s a list of how federal lawmakers from 22 States Newsroom states responded to questions about whether they’ve had a COVID-19 vaccine:
ARIZONA — 8 vaccinated; 3 unknown
- Sen. Mark Kelly (D)
- Sen. Krysten Sinema (D)
- Rep. Ruben Gallego (D)
- Rep. Raul Grijalva (D)
- Rep. Ann Kirkpatrick (D)
- Rep. Tom O’Halleran (D)
- Rep. David Schweikert (R)
- Rep. Greg Stanton (D)
- Rep. Andy Biggs (R)
- Rep. Paul Gosar (R): His office told the Arizona Mirror in December that Gosar was waiting to get a vaccine until he would be eligible as a non-member of Congress in Arizona. He’s now eligible in his home state, but his staffers did not respond to questions.
- Rep. Debbie Lesko (R): Her spokeswoman told the Arizona Mirror in December that Lesko would likely get the vaccine during the first week of January, but her office did not respond to questions about whether that occurred.
COLORADO — 6 vaccinated; 1 not vaccinated; 2 unknown
- Sen. Michael Bennet (D)
- Sen. John Hickenlooper (D)
- Rep. Jason Crow (D)
- Rep. Diana DeGette (D)
- Rep. Joe Neguse (D)
- Rep. Ed Perlmutter (D)
- Rep. Ken Buck (R): “I have the freedom to decide if I’m going to take a vaccine or not and in this case I am not going to take the vaccine,” he said on Fox News in December.
- Rep. Lauren Boebert (R): “At this time, I don’t see that we are in a class of people that need the vaccination. We are healthy. We’re young. I am against any sort of government-mandated vaccination,” Boebert told Colorado Public Radio in December, adding that she had not decided if she would take the vaccine.
- Rep. Doug Lamborn (R): His spokesman said Lamborn hasn’t discussed publicly whether he has yet received a vaccine, but has said that he would get it.
FLORIDA — 12 vaccinated; 4 not vaccinated; 13 unknown
- Sen. Marco Rubio (R): “I know I looked away from the needle. And yes, I know I need a tan. But I am so confident that the #Covid19 vaccine is safe & effective that I decided to take it myself,” Rubio tweeted in December.
- Rep. Kathy Castor (D)
- Rep. Charlie Crist (D)
- Rep. Val Demings (D)
- Rep. Ted Deutch (D)
- Rep. Mario Diaz-Balart (R): Spokeswoman Laura Hernandez said he “waited until the vaccine was readily available to those most vulnerable, and then got his two doses.”
- Rep. Lois Frankel (D)
- Rep. Carlos Gimenez (R)
- Rep. Al Lawson (D)
- Rep. Stephanie Murphy (D)
- Rep. Darren Soto (D)
- Rep. Debbie Wasserman Schultz (D)
- Sen. Rick Scott (R): Scott, who had COVID-19, told Capitol Hill reporters recently that he has been talking to his doctor and testing for antibodies: “I’m still looking at it, I’m listening to my doctor.”
- Rep. Gus Bilirakis (R): His office said Bilirakis intends to get the vaccine.
- Rep. Matt Gaetz (R): In a Twitter post, Gaetz said he does not plan to be vaccinated. He previously had COVID-19.
- Rep. Michael Waltz (R): A staffer said Waltz, who previously had a COVID-19 infection, “fully supports vaccination efforts but will not receive his until seniors in his district and his staff are vaccinated first. He also has the antibodies.”
- Rep. Vern Buchanan (R)
- Rep. Kat Cammack (R)
- Rep. Byron Donalds (R)
- Rep. Neal Dunn (R)
- Rep. Scott Franklin (R): A spokeswoman declined to answer, saying the congressman “does not comment on personal health matters.”
- Rep. Alcee Hastings (D)
- Rep. Brian Mast (R): He said in a December press release that “every single American should be able to access the coronavirus vaccine before any member of Congress.”
- Rep. Bill Posey (R)
- Rep. John Rutherford (R): He wrote on social media in December that he would wait until health care workers received their vaccines, adding that he was “in excellent health.” His office did not respond to questions about whether he has since taken the vaccine.
- Rep. María Elvira Salazar (R): She previously had COVID-19
- Rep. Greg Steube (R)
- Rep. Daniel Webster (R)
- Rep. Frederica Wilson (D)
GEORGIA — 12 vaccinated; 1 not vaccinated; 3 unknown
- Sen. Jon Ossoff (D)
- Sen. Raphael Warnock (D)
- Rep. Rick Allen (R)
- Rep. Sanford Bishop (D)
- Rep. Carolyn Bourdeaux (D)
- Rep. Buddy Carter (R): He was part of Pfizer vaccine trial.
- Rep. Drew Ferguson (R)
- Rep. Hank Johnson (D): He posted video of him receiving shot on social media.
- Rep. Lucy McBath (D)
- Rep. Austin Scott (R): He previously had COVID-19. He tweeted a video of himself waiting in his car to receive a vaccine.
- Rep. David Scott (D)
- Rep. Nikema Williams (D)
- Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R): Her spokesman, Nick Dyer, said she has not been vaccinated “and isn’t planning on doing so. She is a perfectly healthy woman and doesn’t see a reason to do so.”
- Rep. Andrew Clyde (R)
- Rep. Jody Hice (R)
- Rep. Barry Loudermilk (R): He previously had COVID-19.
IDAHO — 2 vaccinated; 2 unknown
- Sen. Mike Crapo (R)
- Rep. Mike Simpson (R)
- Rep. Russ Fulcher (R)
- Sen. Jim Risch (R): His spokesman declined to answer, saying it was private medical information, but added that Risch “encourages anyone who wants the vaccine and is eligible to do so.”
IOWA — 5 vaccinated; 1 not vaccinated
- Sen. Joni Ernst (R)
- Sen. Chuck Grassley (R): He tested positive for COVID-19 in November.
- Rep. Cindy Axne (D)
- Rep. Randy Feenstra (R)
- Rep. Mariannette Miller-Meeks (R): She tweeted video of herself administering vaccines, and is visiting all 24 counties in the district to promote vaccinations
- Rep. Ashley Hinson (R): Her staff said she will do so “as soon as it’s her turn in line.” Hinson tested positive for COVID-19 in November.
KANSAS — 5 vaccinated; 1 unknown
- Sen. Roger Marshall (R): “As a physician, I remain committed to ensuring access for those who want and need this vaccine,” Marshall said in a statement, describing the vaccines as “safe and effective.”
- Sen. Jerry Moran (R)
- Rep. Sharice Davids (D): “I have full confidence in its safety and effectiveness, and it didn’t even hurt,” she said. “It’s my hope we can help reassure people in all communities, including communities of color, of the safety and importance of receiving the vaccine when it’s made available to them.”
- Rep. Jake LaTurner (R)
- Rep. Tracey Mann (R)
- Rep. Ron Estes (R)
LOUISIANA — 2 vaccinated; 5 unknown
- Sen. Bill Cassidy (R)
- Sen. John Kennedy (R)
- Rep. Garret Graves (R)
- Rep. Clay Higgins (R)
- Rep. Mike Johnson (R)
- Rep.-elect Julia Letlow (R): Letlow won a special election last week to fill the seat that her husband, Luke, was elected to hold before he died of COVID-19 complications. She has promoted vaccinations, but States Newsroom could not confirm if she has received one yet: “I’m a huge proponent of the vaccine,” she said during a CBS interview Sunday. “It has life-saving capabilities and I want to encourage anybody out there who’s eligible to go ahead and get that vaccine. It’s so important.”
- Rep. Steve Scalise (R): His staff told the Washington Post in mid-March that the 55-year-old would not get a vaccine until everyone in his age group was eligible in Louisiana. As of Monday, everyone 16 and older is eligible in his state.
MAINE — 2 vaccinated; 2 unknown
- Sen. Angus King (I)
- Rep. Chellie Pingree (D):She posted video of her shot on social media.
- Sen. Susan Collins (R)
- Rep. Jared Golden (D)
MARYLAND — All 10 vaccinated
- Sen. Ben Cardin (D)
- Sen. Chris Van Hollen (D)
- Rep. Anthony Brown (D)
- Rep. Andy Harris (R)
- Rep. Steny Hoyer (D)
- Rep. Kweisi Mfume (D)
- Rep. Jamie Raskin (D): “When I got the shot, I said to myself, ‘I have not felt this good since I voted,’” Raskin told Maryland Matters after getting his shot in December.
- Rep. Dutch Ruppersberger (D)
- Rep. John Sarbanes (D)
- Rep. David Trone (D)
MICHIGAN — 13 vaccinated; 3 unknown
- Sen. Gary Peters (D)
- Sen. Debbie Stabenow (D)
- Rep. Debbie Dingell (D)
- Rep. Dan Kildee (D)
- Rep. Brenda Lawrence (D)
- Rep. Andy Levin (D)
- Rep. Peter Meijer (R)
- Rep. John Moolenaar (R)
- Rep. Elissa Slotkin (D)
- Rep. Haley Stevens (D)
- Rep. Rashida Tlaib (D)
- Rep. Fred Upton (R)
- Rep. Tim Walberg (R)
- Rep. Jack Bergman (R)
- Rep. Bill Huizenga (R)
- Rep. Lisa McClain (R): A staffer responded that they were “not allowed to share” whether McClain has been vaccinated, claiming it would violate health privacy laws.
MINNESOTA — 7 vaccinated; 3 unknown
- Sen. Amy Klobuchar (D)
- Sen. Tina Smith (D)
- Rep. Angie Craig (D)
- Rep. Michelle Fischbach (R)
- Rep. Betty McCollum (D)
- Rep. Ilhan Omar (D)
- Rep. Dean Phillips (D)
- Rep. Tom Emmer (R)
- Rep. Jim Hagedorn (R)
- Rep. Pete Stauber (R)
MISSOURI — 4 vaccinated; 6 unknown
- Rep. Emanuel Cleaver (D)
- Rep. Vicky Hartzler (R)
- Rep. Billy Long (R): His spokesman responded that Long received the Pfizer vaccine, and “strongly encourages others to get their vaccine if their doctor recommends it.”
- Rep. Ann Wagner (R)
- Sen. Roy Blunt (R)
- Sen. Josh Hawley (R)
- Rep. Cori Bush (D): Her office did not respond to multiple requests for comment. She had not taken the vaccine as of late January, but she has stated that she planned to do so. Bush also previously had COVID-19.
- Rep. Sam Graves (R)
- Rep. Blaine Luetkemeyer (R)
- Rep. Jason Smith (R)
MONTANA — 1 vaccinated; 2 unknown
- Sen. Jon Tester (D)
- Sen. Steve Daines (R)
- Rep. Matt Rosendale (R)
NEVADA — All 6 vaccinated
- Sen. Catherine Cortez Masto (D)
- Sen. Jacky Rosen (D)
- Rep. Mark Amodei (R)
- Rep. Steven Horsford (D)
- Rep. Susie Lee (D)
- Rep. Dina Titus (D)
NEW HAMPSHIRE — 3 vaccinated, 1 not vaccinated
- Sen. Maggie Hassan (D)
- Sen. Jeanne Shaheen (D)
- Rep. Annie Kuster (D)
- Rep. Chris Pappas (D): His staff said Pappas is waiting to get his vaccination until his age group becomes eligible in New Hampshire.
NORTH CAROLINA — 12 vaccinated; 2 not vaccinated; 1 unknown
- Sen. Richard Burr (R)
- Sen. Thom Tillis (R): tested positive for COVID-19 in October, and told the Raleigh News-Observer that he has been vaccinated.
- Rep. Alma Adams (D)
- Rep. G.K. Butterfield (D)
- Rep. Virginia Foxx (R)
- Rep. Richard Hudson (R)
- Rep. Kathy Manning (D)
- Rep. Patrick McHenry (R)
- Rep. Greg Murphy (R)
- Rep. David Price (D)
- Rep. Deborah Ross (D)
- Rep. David Rouzer (R)
- Rep. Ted Budd (R): A spokesman responded that Budd had the virus in December, “so he felt that since he has the antibodies for a while, he was going to wait and let others get the vaccine first. He does plan on getting vaccinated.” He also has encouraged others to get a shot.
- Rep. Madison Cawthorn (R): His spokesman did not specify if Cawthorn will eventually get a shot, but responded that the congressman “firmly believes that individuals, in at-risk demographics, ought to be given priority access to the COVID-19 vaccine. Young, healthy, Americans, who face a lower risk of health complications, should wait until those at a higher risk have been vaccinated. Congressman Cawthorn believes that each individual must make their own personal risk assessment in deciding whether or not to receive a vaccination.”
- Rep. Dan Bishop (R)
OHIO — 10 vaccinated; 7 unknown
- Sen. Sherrod Brown (D): “I received the vaccine today and want the public to know that it is safe, and getting immunized is critical to protecting all Ohioans,” Brown said in December.
- Sen. Rob Portman (R): He was a participant in the Johnson & Johnson vaccine trial.
- Rep. Troy Balderson (R)
- Rep. Joyce Beatty (D)
- Rep. Bill Johnson (R)
- Rep. David Joyce (R)
- Rep. Marcy Kaptur (D)
- Rep. Bob Latta (R)
- Rep. Tim Ryan (D)
- Rep. Brad Wenstrup (R)
- Rep. Steve Chabot (R)
- Rep. Warren Davidson (R)
- Rep. Bob Gibbs (R)
- Rep. Anthony Gonzalez (R)
- Rep. Jim Jordan (R)
- Rep. Steve Stivers (R)
- Rep. Mike Turner (R)
PENNSYLVANIA — 14 vaccinated; 1 not vaccinated; 5 unknown
- Sen. Bob Casey (D): In a Dec. 20 statement, Casey said he “[encouraged] all Americans, in consultation with their doctor, to get the vaccine when it becomes available to them.”
- Sen. Pat Toomey (R)
- Rep. Brendan Boyle (D)
- Rep. Matt Cartwright (D)
- Rep. Madeleine Dean (D)
- Rep. Mike Doyle (D)
- Rep. Dwight Evans (D): “The approved U.S. COVID vaccines are safe. I’m 66, and have received two doses myself,” Evans tweeted on Feb. 19.
- Rep. Chrissy Houlahan (D)
- Rep. John Joyce (R): Joyce, a physician, “continues to press Gov. [Tom] Wolf to accelerate COVID-19 vaccine distribution and prioritize equitable access so that every Pennsylvanians who wants a vaccine can get one,” spokeswoman Emma Thompson said in an email.
- Rep. Conor Lamb (D)
- Rep. Dan Meuser (R): “I was initially reluctant because I am not over 65 and have no underlying conditions, but it was available in Washington and I couldn’t choose my replacement so I did receive the vaccine,” Meuser said in a written statement.
- Rep. Mary Gay Scanlon (D)
- Rep. Lloyd Smucker (R)
- Rep. Susan Wild (D)
- Rep. Mike Kelly (R): A spokesman said Kelly “has not yet received the vaccine because he still has the antibodies from his COVID diagnosis last year. He is consulting with his doctor about if and when it will be appropriate to get the vaccine, particularly because he wants to ensure he can continue donating plasma to help people currently suffering with the disease.”
- Rep. Brian Fitzpatrick (R)
- Rep. Fred Keller (R)
- Rep. Scott Perry (R)
- Rep. Guy Reschenthaler (R)
- Rep. Glenn Thompson (R)
TENNESSEE — 6 vaccinated; 5 unknown
- Sen. Marsha Blackburn (R)
- Sen. Bill Hagerty (R)
- Rep. Steve Cohen (D)
- Rep. Jim Cooper (D)
- Rep. Scott DesJarlais (R)
- Rep. David Kustoff (R)
- Rep. Tim Burchett (R)
- Rep. Chuck Fleischmann (R)
- Rep. Mark Green (R)
- Rep. Diana Harshbarger (R)
- Rep. John Rose (R)
VIRGINIA — 11 vaccinated; 1 not vaccinated; 1 unknown
- Sen. Tim Kaine (D)
- Sen Mark Warner (D)
- Rep. Don Beyer (D)
- Rep. Ben Cline (R)
- Rep. Gerry Connolly (D)
- Rep. Elaine Luria (D)
- Rep. Donald McEachin (D)
- Rep. Bobby Scott (D)
- Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D)
- Rep. Jennifer Wexton (D)
- Rep. Robert Wittman (R)
- Rep. Morgan Griffith (R): A spokesman for Griffith, who previously had COVID-19, said the congressman “wants to wait his turn for distribution and will get the vaccine after more people in the 9th District have received their doses.”
- Rep. Bob Good (R)
WISCONSIN — 4 vaccinated; 2 not vaccinated; 4 unknown
- Sen. Tammy Baldwin (D): “At the direction of the Capitol Attending Physician, I received a COVID-19 vaccine shot today and I will continue my work making sure vaccinations are widely distributed in Wisconsin so everyone has safe and effective protection from this deadly virus,” Baldwin tweeted in December.
- Rep. Mike Gallagher (R)
- Rep. Gwen Moore (D): She previously had COVID-19.
- Rep. Mark Pocan (D)
- Sen. Ron Johnson (R): Asked recently by Capitol Hill reporters if he had been vaccinated, Johnson replied: “No, I had COVID.”
- Rep. Ron Kind (D): His office said Kind intends to do so when he is eligible in Wisconsin.
- Rep. Scott Fitzgerald (R)
- Rep. Glenn Grothman (R)
- Rep. Bryan Steil (R)
- Rep. Tom Tiffany (R)
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