White House officials over the weekend expressed confidence that the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private businesses will be upheld after an appeals court temporarily blocked it on Saturday.
“I’m quite confident that when this finally gets fully adjudicated, not just a temporary order, the validity of this requirement will be upheld. It’s common sense, Chuck, if OSHA can tell people to wear a hard hat on the job, to be careful around chemicals, it can put in place these simple measures to keep our workers safe,” White House chief of staff Ron Klain, a top confidant to President Joe Biden, told “Meet the Press,” referring to the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
About two-dozen states, numerous private entities and individuals, and even a media outlet have filed lawsuits against the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates. The OSHA rule stipulates that employees at all businesses with 100 or more workers get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing and wear face masks in the workplace.
The states, most of which are led by Republicans, have argued that OSHA’s mandate runs afoul of the Constitution and that the federal government doesn’t have the authority.
In a statement to The Epoch Times over the weekend, Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda said the agency is “confident in its legal authority” and claimed that the mandate is meant to deal with “a grave danger” posed by COVID-19. Figures released by Johns Hopkins University say that the COVID-19 case-fatality ratio in the United States is about 1.6 percent, while the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says that of the 46 million who have been officially counted as a COVID-19 case, 751,000 have died.
“We are fully prepared to defend this standard in court,” Nanda said in an email.
However, the Republican-led coalition of states that have filed lawsuits argue that the OSHA rule poses an existential threat to individual liberty in the United States.
“As we have seen throughout the country, it is … a public policy disaster that displaces vulnerable workers and exacerbates a nationwide shortage of front-line workers, with severe consequences for all Americans,” West Virginia Attorney General Patrick Morrisey said in a statement last week.
Some trade groups have also expressed alarm about the mandate in letters to the White House in recent weeks. Among them, the American Trucking Associations warned that it estimates that 13 percent of truckers would leave the industry entirely, while 37 percent of drivers could possibly leave their jobs at major trucking companies and seek employment elsewhere.
In a win for one group of states, the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit temporarily blocked the OSHA mandate on Saturday, affecting Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, Utah, and South Carolina. The rule, along with vaccine mandates for most healthcare workers and federal contractors, is slated to go into effect on Jan. 4.
Some states filed lawsuits against the portion of Biden’s rule affecting federal contractors, which employ about a fifth of American workers. And unlike the OSHA’s requirement for private businesses, the rule for federal contractors and healthcare workers who work at Medicare- or Medicaid-funded facilities does not have a weekly testing option.
Zachary Stieber contributed to this report.