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‘Unlawful, unwise’: States file lawsuits over Biden's COVID-19 vaccine requirement

US Rep. Ilhan Omar (D-MN) (L) talks with Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi (D-CA) during a rally with fellow Democrats before voting on H.R. 1, or the People Act, on the East Steps of the US Capitol on March 08, 2019 in Washington, DC. (AFP photo)
File photo of US President Joe Biden

More than two dozen Republican-led states have filed lawsuits challenging the Biden administration’s new COVID-19 vaccine requirement for private companies.

The lawsuits came a day after the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) announced the new rules on Thursday, requiring workers at businesses with more than 100 staff to get vaccinated by January 4 or face mask requirements and weekly tests.

The plaintiffs have asked courts to determine whether the new requirement is a federal power grab by President Joe Biden that usurps the authority of states to set their own health policy.   

At least 27 states filed lawsuits on Friday to challenge the rule, the Associated Press reported.

In a lawsuit filed in the 8th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Missouri on behalf of 11 states, attorneys general of those states argued that the power to compel vaccinations rests only with state capitals, not the federal government.

“This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in the court filing.

The Republican attorneys general of Alaska, Arizona, Arkansas, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming also joined the suit in the Missouri-based court.

Also joining the lawsuit was the office of Iowa Attorney General Tom Miller, the only Democratic AG to legally challenge the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate.

In a statement, Miller said he was filing at the behest of Governor Kim Reynolds, a Republican. “It is my duty, under the law, to prosecute or defend any actions in court when requested by the governor.”

The Biden administration has been advocating widespread vaccinations in an effort to contain the spread of the coronavirus that has so far claimed more than 750,000 lives in the United States, the highest fatality rate in the world.

The administration has argued that the new requirement, which includes penalties of nearly $14,000 per violation, will withstand legal challenges in part because its safety rules preempt state laws.

Seema Nanda, a solicitor for the US Department of Labor, said in a statement Friday that OSHA has the legal authority to act quickly during an emergency if it ascertains that workers’ health is at risk.   

The federal agency contends its new requirement also preempts any state or local bans on employers’ ability to require vaccines.

Other coalitions of states also filed lawsuits on Friday.

Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah presented their case to the 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans. Kansas, Kentucky, Idaho, Ohio, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia teamed up in the Cincinnati-based 6th Circuit; while Alabama, Florida and Georgia filed their lawsuit in the 11th Circuit in Atlanta.

Later in the day, Indiana filed in the Chicago-based 7th Circuit.


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