| 30 May 2024, Thursday |

Republican governors lead attack on Biden vaccine mandate

Republican governors are likely to file a lawsuit on Friday, claiming that the Biden administration’s requirement that roughly 2 million U.S. firms have workers tested or vaccinated for COVID-19 violates civil freedoms.

Following President Joe Biden’s announcement on Thursday that he will begin enforcing the mandate on Jan. 4, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he will bring suit alongside the governors of Georgia and Alabama, as well as private plaintiffs.

“Under the pretense of workplace regulation, the federal government can’t just unilaterally impose medical policy,” DeSantis stated at a press conference.

The governors of Indiana, Iowa, and Nebraska, all Republicans, have pledged to fight the decision in court.

The OSHA, or Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal workplace regulator, implemented the law as a rarely used emergency rule.

On Thursday, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, tweeted, “Biden just unveiled his plan to use OSHA to mandate immunizations on private businesses.” “I’m announcing my intention to sue him once the Federal Register publishes this illegal, unconstitutional regulation.”

Texas is among the Republican-led states which have issued executive orders or enacted laws that ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates or prevent employers from seeking an employee’s vaccination status.

OSHA said the rule takes precedence over conflicting state laws. It will go into effect on Friday when it is due to be published in the federal register.

At least two lawsuits were initiated against the mandate on Thursday, one by Phillips Manufacturing & Tower and Sixarp LLC and the other by Bentkey Services LLC, which owns The Daily Wire, a conservative media company. Both were filed in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Responding to opponents of the rule, a senior administration official said OSHA clearly has the authority to act to protect workers from health and safety hazards. COVID-19 has killed more than 745,000 people in the United States.

Biden said in September that patience was wearing thin with the 30% of Americans who remain unvaccinated and who made up the vast majority of those hospitalized during the most recent wave of COVID-19 infections.

Mandates have been used by private businesses and local governments to drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates and courts have generally upheld them because states typically have the power to regulate healthcare within their borders.

A wide range of opponents have signaled their intention to sue. Previous uses of OSHA’s emergency rule have a history of being blocked in court.

Even if the mandate is upheld by the courts, some states still might not implement the rule.

OSHA applies to private workplaces in 29 states. The remaining states, including Indiana and Iowa, have their own state-run OSHA which is required to adopt the federal rule.

OSHA issued a similar COVID-19 rule for healthcare settings in June, and in October the federal agency threatened to take over the state-run OSHA agencies in Arizona, South Carolina and Utah for failing to adopt it. Arizona and South Carolina have since said they have started the process to adopt the rule. Officials in Utah did not respond to a request for comment.

  • Reuters