12 states sue to block Biden vaccine mandate on health care workers

A group of 12 states is suing the Biden administration to block its vaccine mandate for health care workers, contending that the requirement is unconstitutional and violates a number of federal laws.

The lawsuit, filed on Monday, argues the vaccine mandate for health care workers, issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, exceeds the agency’s statutory authority and breaches the Social Security Act’s ban on regulations that control the hiring and firing of health care workers.

“The Biden Administration is playing statutory shell games with the courts, straining to justify an unjustifiable and unprecedented attempt to federalize public health policy and diminish the sovereign States’ constitutional powers,” the lawsuit reads.

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The plaintiffs are also alleging that the mandate violates the Spending Clause, the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine, the 10th Amendment's protections for states' rights and a number of federal laws.

The attorneys general of Alabama, Arizona, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Louisiana, Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia are all listed as plaintiffs in the lawsuit.

Last week, 10 other states filed a lawsuit against the administration’s requirement, calling it “unconstitutional and unlawful.”

The latest suit names as defendants the Department of Health and Human Services and its secretary, Xavier BecerraXavier BecerraThe Hill's 12:30 Report: Trump's pre-debate COVID-19 test sparks criticism Biden unveils updated strategy to end HIV epidemic by 2030 Buttigieg has high name recognition, favorability rating in Biden Cabinet: survey MORE, and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services and its administrator, Chiquita Brooks-LaSure.

Workers at health facilities that receive federal funding from Medicare or Medicaid, including hospitals and nursing homes, must be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, according to the emergency rule released by the Biden administration earlier this month.

Unlike the mandate for businesses with more than 100 employees, there is not option for healthcare workers to submit to regular testing for the virus. 

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Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen (R), who is leading the lawsuit, said the decision of whether to get vaccinated should be up to the health care workers themselves.

“The federal mandates are not about health — they are about forced compliance. Healthcare workers should be allowed to make their own decisions about their health — not President BidenJoe BidenMarcus Garvey's descendants call for Biden to pardon civil rights leader posthumously GOP grapples with chaotic Senate primary in Pennsylvania ​​Trump social media startup receives commitment of billion from unidentified 'diverse group' of investors MORE,” Knudsen said in a statement.

“If his unprecedented overreach is not stopped, healthcare workers will lose their jobs threatening access to medical care that Montanans need,” he added.

When reached for comment by The Hill, a spokesperson for the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services said the agency is not able to comment on pending litigation, but underscored the importance of the mandate as a way to address patient safety, provide stability and uniformity for the country’s health care system and “strengthen the health of people and the providers who care for them.”

The spokesperson also said there is “no question” that unvaccinated health care personnel pose a threat to patient safety and population health, which is why the mandate is necessary.

“CMS knows that everyone working in health care wants to do what is best for their patients to keep them safe. Health care workers have a special ethical and professional duty to protect their patients,” the spokesperson said.

“There is no question that staff in any health care setting who remain unvaccinated pose both direct and indirect threats to patient safety and population health. That is why it is imperative for health care providers to ensure their staff who may interact with patients are vaccinated against COVID-19,” the spokesperson added.

— Updated at 4:39 p.m.