Republican governors are expected to sue on Friday to stop the Biden administration’s requirement that nearly 2 million US employers get workers tested or vaccinated for COVID-19, saying it trampled civil liberties.
After President Joe Biden, a Democrat, said on Thursday he will enforce the mandate starting Jan. 4, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis said he will join the governors of Georgia and Alabama as well as private plaintiffs to file suit.
“The federal government can’t just unilaterally impose medical policy under the guise of workplace regulation,” DeSantis said at a press conference.
The Republican governors of Indiana, Iowa and Nebraska also vowed to challenge the move in court.
The regulation was implemented as a rarely used emergency rule from OSHA, or Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the federal workplace regulator.
“Biden just announced his plan to wield OSHA to mandate vaccines on private businesses,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton, a Republican, wrote on Twitter on Thursday. “I’m announcing my plan to sue him once this illegal, unconstitutional regulation hits the Federal Register.”
Texas is among the Republican-led states which have issued executive orders or enacted laws that ban COVID-19 vaccine mandates or prevent employers from seeking an employee’s vaccination status.
OSHA said the rule takes precedence over conflicting state laws. It will go into effect on Friday when it is due to be published in the federal register.
At least two lawsuits were initiated against the mandate on Thursday, one by Phillips Manufacturing & Tower and Sixarp LLC and the other by Bentkey Services LLC, which owns The Daily Wire, a conservative media company. Both were filed in the 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.
Responding to opponents of the rule, a senior administration official said OSHA clearly has the authority to act to protect workers from health and safety hazards. COVID-19 has killed more than 745,000 people in the United States.
Biden said in September that patience was wearing thin with the 30 percent of Americans who remain unvaccinated and who made up the vast majority of those hospitalized during the most recent wave of COVID-19 infections.
Mandates have been used by private businesses and local governments to drive up COVID-19 vaccination rates and courts have generally upheld them because states typically have the power to regulate healthcare within their borders.
A wide range of opponents have signaled their intention to sue. Previous uses of OSHA’s emergency rule have a history of being blocked in court.
Even if the mandate is upheld by the courts, some states still might not implement the rule.
OSHA applies to private workplaces in 29 states. The remaining states, including Indiana and Iowa, have their own state-run OSHA which is required to adopt the federal rule.
OSHA issued a similar COVID-19 rule for healthcare settings in June, and in October the federal agency threatened to take over the state-run OSHA agencies in Arizona, South Carolina and Utah for failing to adopt it. Arizona and South Carolina have since said they have started the process to adopt the rule.
Officials in Utah did not respond to a request for comment.