Biden team defends workers’ vaccine rules, hoping to merge cases

The Biden administration has shelved its private employer vaccine mission, hoping to integrate multiple challenges to its workplace rules into a federal court, and demand a decision early next week.

The US Department of Justice stated in court documents on Monday that it should randomly select a Federal Circuit court to hear the case on November 16.

After the Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced its rules last week, at least 27 states and some companies and associations have submitted more than a dozen legal challenges to at least six federal appeals courts. All states have a Republican governor or attorney general.

Last weekend, a judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans suspended the rule, saying it caused “serious statutory and constitutional issues.” White House spokesperson Karin Jean-Pierre expressed confidence on Monday that the COVID-19 vaccine authorization can withstand any legal challenges.

“This is the authority we think the Ministry of Labor has,” Jean-Pierre told reporters at a press conference. “We are very confident about this.”

The authorization will apply to private companies with more than 100 workers. Employees who have not been vaccinated before January 4 will be required to wear masks and undergo weekly coronavirus tests. OSHA rules provide exemptions for workers who cite religious objections, workers who do not personally interact with colleagues or clients, and workers who only work outdoors.

The Republican state attorney general and others filed a lawsuit on the grounds that the federal government does not have the authority to make the regulation, partly because COVID-19 is not specific to workplace hazards.

Jean-Pierre said that this authorization is to protect people’s safety, and Congress authorized the Department of Labor to act in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Vaccine authorization, including authorization for certain federal employees and the military, is a key component of the bill.The Biden administration’s strategy to contain the pandemic that has killed 750,000 people in the United States

It said that widespread vaccination is the fastest way to get rid of the pandemic.
Jean-Pierre said that “people should not wait” to be vaccinated.

The government announced the workplace rules plan in September and announced the plan on November 4. Many Republican governors and state attorneys general have indicated in advance that they will immediately challenge them, as they did in multiple federal lawsuits filed on Friday.

States filed lawsuits in the country’s most conservative court of appeals, and the appointment of former President Donald Trump supports the majority appointed by the Republican Party. It is unclear whether the emergency stay order issued by the Fifth Circuit on Saturday applies to the whole country or only to the states that filed the case—Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah.

The Fifth Circuit’s order reads that “the authorization is hereby set aside until further action is taken by this court,” but did not specify whether it only applies to five states. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it applies to the whole country, but the state that filed a lawsuit in another court asked for clarification on Monday.

According to a state document from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Eighth Circuit in St. Louis, “Although the Fifth Circuit’s order may be interpreted as having a national impact, it did not make a clear statement on this point.” In order to avoid any confusion and ensure that their rights are fully protected, the petitioners respectfully request this court to issue similar orders here.”

The states, businesses and organizations that challenged the rules in the 8th Circuit also called for a quick review of their challenges to the workplace rules on Monday.

“Thousands of employers and millions of working families will immediately feel its impact. The court should act quickly to prevent these illegal and unconstitutional injuries,” these organizations said in court documents.

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