By Ken Bredemeier
The White House said Sunday it is confident that the courts will eventually approve President Joe Biden’s mandate that U.S. businesses with 100 workers or more insist their workers either be vaccinated against the coronavirus or be frequently tested despite an initial court ruling halting the vaccination requirement.
White House chief of staff Ron Klain told NBC’s “Meet the Press” show, “I’m quite confident that when this finally gets fully adjudicated, not just a temporary order, the validity of this requirement will be upheld.”
Klain characterized the Biden vaccination order, which affects 84 million private sector workers and is set to take effect January 4, as “common sense” to help end the pandemic in the United States.
He said if the government’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) “can tell people to wear a hard hat on the job, to be careful on chemicals, it can … put in place these simple measures to keep our workers safe.”
The U.S. Supreme Court last month approved a vaccination mandate covering health care workers in the northeastern state of Maine but has yet to consider a broad national mandate such as Biden’s order affecting private businesses or his order requiring 4 million federal employees and contractors working for the federal government to get vaccinated by November 22.
Numerous Republican state governors opposed to the Democratic president’s national mandate, along with some government employee unions and individual workers, have filed lawsuits in an effort to block Biden’s orders, all claiming they are an overreach of his authority.
In filing a lawsuit against the Biden order affecting workers at private businesses, Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton called the vaccine mandate “a breathtaking abuse of federal power” that is “flatly unconstitutional.” He contended that the mandate goes beyond OSHA’s “limited power and specific responsibilities.”
On Saturday, the conservative-dominated 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, which hears cases in the adjoining Southern states of Texas, Louisiana and Mississippi, temporarily blocked the Biden mandate for private businesses, saying there were “grave statutory and constitutional” issues concerning the rule. It ordered Biden administration lawyers to voice their opposition to a permanent injunction by late Monday, pending further court action. It is unclear if the appeals court’s decision applies outside those states.
White House aide Cedric Richmond defended the use of the OSHA authority to mandate the vaccinations, telling the “Fox News Sunday” show, “OSHA’s job is to protect workers. If it means doing something tough, that’s what this president does.”
“We think we’re on solid ground,” Richmond said.
It appears that hundreds of thousands of federal workers have been vaccinated ahead of the deadline in two weeks, but opposition to the shots has emerged at some agencies, especially those related to law enforcement and intelligence. Other lawsuits filed by workers unions and individuals that contest Biden’s mandate remain to be adjudicated. There is no testing option available for government employees as there would be for workers in the private sector.
The number of new coronavirus cases has been diminishing for several weeks in the U.S., but even so about 70,000 additional cases are being recorded every day.
More than 193 million people in the U.S. out of its population of 333 million have been fully vaccinated. But millions of adults have for various reasons refused inoculations, curbing Biden’s effort to fully control the pandemic.
More than 750,000 people in the U.S. have died from COVID-19, the disease caused by the coronavirus, more than in any other country, according to the government’s U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.