White House: Move forward with mandate despite court freeze

The White House on Monday urged businesses to move forward with implementing rules for coronavirus vaccines after a federal court stayed President Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate for private companies.

“We think people should not wait,” White House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Monday. “We say, do not wait to take actions that will keep your workplace safe. It is important and critical to do and waiting to get more people vaccinated will lead to more outbreaks and sickness.”

“We’re trying to get past this pandemic, and we know the way to do that is to get people vaccinated,” Jean-Pierre added.

The Biden administration maintains that it is on firm legal footing after a federal appeals court in New Orleans temporarily blocked the rule, which was developed by the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), on Saturday. 

“The administration clearly has the authority to protect workers, and actions announced by the president are designed to save lives and stop the spread of COVID-19,” Jean-Pierre said Monday, noting that the Justice Department would be defending the rule in court.

The three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals cited “grave statutory and constitutional issues” with Biden’s rule in issuing the stay on Saturday. All three judges on the panel were appointed by Republican presidents. 

It’s unclear how long it will take for legal disputes around the vaccine rule to be resolved. More than two dozen state attorneys general as well as other organizations are challenging the rule in court.

The Biden administration unveiled the rule, formally known as an emergency temporary standard, last week. The rule requires businesses with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees get vaccinated against COVID-19 or otherwise submit to weekly testing.

The rule requires that employers comply with the mandate by Jan. 4. Officials estimate that the rule will impact 84 million people. Each violation of the rule could cost an employer up to about $13,600.

A number of businesses have already moved forward to implement their own vaccine requirements for employees, but officials hope the mandate will further increase the uptake of coronavirus vaccinations so the U.S. can drive down COVID-19 cases and deaths.

Last week, the U.S. passed the grim milestone of 750,000 coronavirus deaths.

Federal law gives OSHA the authority to issue an emergency temporary standard if it determines workers are exposed to a “grave danger” that necessitates a rule.

“I’m quite confident that when this finally gets fully adjudicated, not just a temporary order, the validity of this requirement will be upheld,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain said on NBC’s “Meet the Press” over the weekend.

“If OSHA can tell people to wear a hard hat on the job, to be careful around chemicals, it can put in place these simple measures to keep our workers safe,” he said. 

Updated at 3:05 p.m.

Tags Coronavirus COVID-19 Joe Biden Karine Jean-Pierre Ron Klain vaccine mandate

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