White House tells businesses to move forward with vaccine mandate

For the second time in a month, the White House on Thursday urged large businesses to move forward with coronavirus vaccine mandates for their workforces despite court challenges to the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test requirement for private companies.

“Our message to businesses right now is to move forward with measures that will make their workplaces safer and protect their workforces from COVID-19,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki told reporters during a briefing. “That was our message after the first stay issued by the Fifth Circuit. That remains our message and nothing has changed.”

Psaki’s comments came after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) said it would suspend enforcement of the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for businesses after a federal appeals court reaffirmed its decision to suspend the mandate.

Psaki said Thursday that the administration remains confident that it has the authority to issue the rule, known as an emergency temporary standard, which requires businesses with more than 100 employees to require that their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to regular testing for the virus.

Psaki also said the administration was still working off the Jan. 4 deadline it set for businesses to comply with the rule, despite the ongoing legal dispute.

“We are still heading towards the same timeline. The department of justice is vigorously defending the emergency temporary standard in court and we are confident in OSHA’s authority,” Psaki said.

A three-judge panel on the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocked the vaccine mandate earlier this month. The judges, all of whom were appointed by Republican presidents, described the vaccine rule as “grossly” exceeding OSHA’s authority. At the time of the initial ruling, the White House urged businesses to move forward with vaccine requirements for workers.

Earlier this week, the legal dispute over the vaccine rule was transferred to the Cincinnati-based 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which is considered one of the more conservative circuit courts in the nation, albeit less conservative than the appeals court in New Orleans.

That could spell trouble for the vaccine mandate’s fate.

Even so, Psaki noted polling showing that businesses are moving forward with some kind of vaccine rule in order to protect their workforce from COVID-19 regardless of the ongoing dispute, welcoming those efforts. A number of well-known businesses have publicly embraced the mandates.

The vaccine rule for businesses was part of a broader effort by President Biden to encourage more people to get vaccinated in the United States, where just under 60 percent of the total population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19. 

Tags Jen Psaki Joe Biden

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