TOPEKA, Kan. – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt, along with attorney generals from 23 other states, including Missouri, have sent a letter to President Joe Biden warning that litigation would follow if the administration proceeds with its announced vaccine mandate for private sector employees as well as health care workers and federal contractors.
“President Biden must drop his unlawful proposed vaccine mandate or face legal action over the policy, Schmidt said Thursday, a week after the announcement.
The Biden administration has said it intends to carry out the mandate through an Occupational Safety and Health Act emergency temporary standard that will require employees to either get a COVID19 vaccine, submit weekly testing or be fired.
Biden sharply criticized last week the tens of millions of Americans who are not yet vaccinated, despite months of availability and incentives.
The expansive rules mandate that all employers with more than 100 workers require them to be vaccinated or test for the virus weekly, affecting about 80 million Americans. And the roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated.
Biden is also requiring vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.
Republican leaders — and some union chiefs, too — said Biden was going too far in trying to muscle private companies and workers, a certain sign of legal challenges to come.
Just two months ago Biden prematurely declared the nation’s “independence” from the virus. Now, despite more than 208 million Americans having at least one dose of the vaccines, the U.S. is seeing about 300% more new COVID-19 infections a day, about two-and-a-half times more hospitalizations, and nearly twice the number of deaths compared to the same time last year. Some 80 million people remain unvaccinated.
After months of using promotions to drive the vaccination rate, Biden is taking a much firmer hand, as he blames people who have not yet received shots for the sharp rise in cases killing more than 1,000 people per day and imperiling a fragile economic rebound.
“Congress has not clearly granted you the authority to impose your sweeping vaccine mandate, which would have enormous social, economic, and political consequences,” the attorneys general wrote. “Millions of Americans are threatened with losing their jobs and the benefits that come with them, including life and health insurance and retirement benefits. Your threat carries with it the threat of people losing their homes and shifting the financial obligation of supporting currently independent and employed individuals to public support systems. Worse still, if your expansive reading of the law succeeds, the American people can expect further abuses, as it is hard to imagine any requirement that the law would not allow. You are clearly acting beyond the scope of the statute, and you will fail in court.”
The attorneys general wrote that federal courts have been skeptical of the use of OSHA emergency temporary standards because of concern about federalism and the separation of powers.
Schmidt and the others raise concerns about the expansion of a federal regulatory agency and public perception of the order’s constitutionality.
Among the concerns addressed in the letter are the practical policy considerations of such a sweeping executive order and the potential to drive individuals out of the workforce, particularly health care workers, who are most needed right now to fight the pandemic.
The attorney generals say the mandate also ignores tens of millions of Americans with natural immunity and will drive further skepticism of vaccines.
“The risks of COVID-19 spread also vary widely depending on the nature of the business in question, many of which can have their employees, for example, work remotely,” the attorneys general wrote.
“The one-size-fits-almost-all approach you have decreed makes clear you intend to use the OSHA statute as a pretext to impose an unprecedented, controversial public health measure on a nationwide basis that only incidentally concerns the workplace.”
You can read the full letter below:
More than 177 million Americans are fully vaccinated against the coronavirus, but confirmed cases have shot up in recent weeks to an average of about 140,000 per day with on average about 1,000 deaths, according to data from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
Most of the spread — and the vast majority of severe illness and death — is occurring among those not yet fully vaccinated. So-called breakthrough infections in vaccinated people occur, but tend to be far less dangerous.
Federal officials are moving ahead with plans to begin administering booster shots of the mRNA vaccines to bolster protection against the more transmissible delta variant. Last month Biden announced plans to make them available beginning Sept. 20, but only the Pfizer vaccine will likely have received regulatory approval for a third dose by that time.