The Biden administration on Monday advised businesses to continue proceeding with the COVID-19 vaccine mandate despite the fact that a federal court has ordered it paused in response to a number of lawsuits challenging its constitutionality.
“People should not wait,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a press briefing. “They should continue to move forward and make sure they’re getting their workplace vaccinated.”
Jean-Pierre’s statement comes on the heels of a ruling by the U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which ordered the mandate halted on Saturday pending a review. The court ruled that “the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate.”
GOP attorneys general in Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas, and Utah petitioned the court to pause the mandate, arguing that its requirements go beyond the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s authority to issue and enforce it. In addition, the lawsuit alleges that the authorities granted to OSHA regarding the mandate are an unconstitutional granting of power to the Executive Branch by Congress.
The administration filed its response to the 5th Circuit’s order Monday evening and asked the court to lift its stay, rejecting arguments from the states and from companies that their claims of being harmed by the mandate are “premature” since the deadlines requiring workers to be vaccinated or begin weekly testing do not begin until Jan. 4.
The White House also argued that pausing the mandate “would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day” due to the virus’ spread. In addition, the Justice and Labor departments also argued that OSHA has the authority to issue the mandate and that authority was established via Congress, CNBC reported.
The court’s ruling came a day after the agency issued the mandate requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to establish mandatory vaccination and testing programs. President Biden announced the vaccine mandate Sept. 9; critics have argued that the administration’s claim that the rule was issued under emergency guidelines fails because it still took roughly two months for the rule to be issued.
According to the mandate, workers who are not vaccinated must provide employers with a negative COVID-19 test every week in order to enter the workplace. Also, unvaccinated staffers must begin wearing face masks indoors at their jobs beginning Dec. 5.
In sum, attorneys general in 26 states have filed legal challenges to the Biden-ordered mandate and testing requirements spread over five U.S. courts of appeal since Friday. In addition, the Republican National Committee filed suit against the requirements in the D.C. Court of Appeals.
“It’s unclear which court will ultimately decide the case. When multiple petitions are filed in at least two courts, the cases are consolidated in one of those courts through a lottery system,” CNBC reported. “The Justice Department said in a filing Monday that the lottery is expected [to] take place on or around Nov. 16.”
The White House has argued that the courts should not rule on the matter until the court that will decide the consolidated case is chosen.
Legal experts told CNBC they expect to see the case wind up before the U.S. Supreme Court.
Seema Nanda, the top lawyer for the Labor Department, said the agency is fully prepared to defend the mandate, arguing the law “explicitly gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them.”
In addition, Nanda said that the federal mandate supersedes “any state or local requirements that ban or limit an employer’s authority to require vaccination, face-covering, or testing.”
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