Texas to challenge constitutionality of Biden administration’s new COVID vaccination mandate

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Toni Gutierrez | AP

On Friday, Texas challenged the Biden administration over its mandate for a Covid vaccine for private businesses, arguing the new federal requirements are unconstitutional.

State Attorney General Ken Paxton filed request for review with the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit challenging the legality of the administration’s powers. Paxton said he will file a motion to suspend the mandate soon.

Paxton, in a statement, called the vaccination mandate “a breathtaking abuse of federal power” that “is in the face of the Constitution.” He argued that this mandate goes beyond the “limited powers and specific responsibilities” of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which announced new workplace regulations earlier this week.

The petition was joined by attorneys general for Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah, as well as several companies.

OSHA, which oversees workplace safety for the Department of Labor, has developed an emergency vaccine mandate that allows the agency to shorten the normal process and issue new worker safety standards, which often take years.

Labor Department chief lawyer Sima Nanda said Friday in a statement that the Biden administration is “fully committed to defending this standard in court.”

“The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly empowers OSHA to act quickly in an emergency when the agency believes workers are in serious danger and new standards are needed to protect them,” said Nanda, a legal counsel for the Department of Labor.

Nanda said the emergency safety standard “supersedes any state or local requirements that prohibit or restrict an employer’s authority to require vaccinations, face disguises, or testing.”

Texas Governor Greg Abbott has banned vaccinations through disposition last month. Abbott asked the state legislature to replace his order with law, but the law did not find support from lawmakers after several business groups opposed the state’s ban on vaccinations.

Abbott also banned local governments from requiring people to wear masks through disposition in May. Several school districts have sued Abbott over this.

U.S. President Joe Biden presents an update on the Covid-19 vaccination and response program at the White House Southern Courtroom in Washington, DC on October 14, 2021.

Nicholas Camm | AFP | Getty Images

“We always have a question that we ask the Republicans: why are they getting in the way? Why do they get in the way of protecting and saving lives? That’s all we are trying to do, “- White told reporters the Deputy Press Secretary of the House of Representatives Karin Jean-Pierre.

A vaccine mandate that applies to businesses with 100 or more employees, took effect Friday following publication in the Federal Register.

According to the mandate, companies must provide their employees with vaccines by January 4 or take a negative Covid test at least once a week. Unvaccinated workers should start wearing masks indoors by December 5th. The mandate covers 84 million private sector workers.

Governor of Texas Greg Abbott speaks at the Houston Region Business Coalition’s monthly meeting on October 27, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Paxton and nearly all Republican attorneys general in the United States threatened to use “all available legal options” suspend the mandate in a letter to President Joe Biden in September.

Republicans and some industry lobbyists have argued that the current threat from Covid does not pose a serious threat, as the Biden administration has said. They point to increasing levels of vaccination and natural immunity in the United States from previous infections, as well as mitigation measures already in place by many businesses in the workplace.

“The virus, which has killed more than 745,000 Americans and more than 70,000 new cases per day, is now clearly a health hazard that poses a serious threat to workers,” Nanda said in a press briefing on Thursday.

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