More than two dozen states are balking against the Biden administration's coronavirus vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses that have at least 100 employees, setting up the latest legal challenge between Republicans and the White House.
Several coalitions — which include 25 attorneys general and one solicitor general — filed petitions with federal appeals courts asking for the mandate to be blocked.
One, led by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and including 10 others, filed a lawsuit in the 8th Circuit Court of Appeals, claiming that the requirement is “unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise.”
The lawsuit alleges that the Biden administration did not have the constitutional authority to implement the mandate which “unconstitutionally infringes on the States’ powers.” It also claims that Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), which developed the rule, was not authorized to put in place such sweeping federal public health regulations.
“Its unlawful mandate will cause injuries and hardship to working families, inflict economic disruption and staffing shortages on the States and private employers, and impose even greater strains on struggling labor markets and supply chains,” the attorneys general allege in the lawsuit, which requested that the court stay the requirement pending review.
The other states that joined Missouri were Arizona, Montana, Nebraska, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, New Hampshire and Wyoming.
A separate coalition of Republican attorneys general also filed a petition with the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals, also arguing that OSHA has neither the constitutional or statutory authority to implement the rule.
“OSHA’s vaccination mandate represents a real threat to individual liberty,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement on Friday. “As we have seen throughout the country, it is also a public policy disaster that displaces vulnerable workers and exacerbates a nationwide shortage of front-line workers, with severe consequences for all Americans.”
That coalition, which also includes the states of Kentucky, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Oklahoma and Tennessee, also asked for a stay on the mandate and for the emergency temporary standard to be reviewed by the court.
Two other coalitions have also filed lawsuits with federal appeals courts. One coalition is made up of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah. Another one includes Alabama, Georgia and Florida.
All four filings were submitted with appeals courts, bypassing the trial court level because they were seeking reviews of a federal agency's decision. The cases set up legal battles that will test the federal government's ability to impose sweeping public health measures and will likely reach the Supreme Court.
The wave of legal challenges comes just a day after the Biden administration published details about the mandate, which sets a Jan. 4 deadline.
An OSHA spokesperson did not immediately respond when asked for comment.
Officials from the White House, however, have previously argued that the OSHA has ample authority to implement regulations such as the vaccine one.
“The new Emergency Temporary Standard is well within OSHA’s authority under the law and consistent with OSHA’s requirements to protect workers from health and safety hazards, including infectious diseases,” a senior administration official said during a background call with reporters this week. “There is well-established legal precedent for OSHA’s authority to evaluate existing scientific evidence and apply data to develop safety and health standards.”
“OSHA has broad authority to issue and enforce health and safety standards to protect workers in staying safe and healthy on the job — like precautions against bloodborne diseases, excessive noise, and falls from dangerous heights — and now, getting vaccinated against a virus that has taken more American lives than World War One, World War Two, the Vietnam War, and 9/11 combined,” the person added.
— Updated at 6:33 p.m. Harper Neidig contributed.