By Mimi Nguyen Ly
Several U.S. states on Friday mounted multiple federal lawsuits against the Biden administration over its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers and contractors.
Texas sued individually in a federal court in Galveston. Another lawsuit, filed in a federal district court in Missouri involves Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Yet another lawsuit, filed in a federal district court in Georgia, involves Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia.
The lawsuits come a day after Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis announced he sued the administration over the same vaccine mandate. As of late Friday, the total number of states suing the Biden administration over the mandate is 19.
President Joe Biden on Sept. 9 issued a far-reaching executive order that requires almost all federal employees to get a COVID-19 vaccine as a condition of employment, including civilian federal employees and contractors. The order goes into effect on Dec. 8. Regular COVID-19 testing isn’t an option, but religious or medical exemptions from vaccination may be granted, according to the order. Contractors that don’t comply may lose out on government contracts.
The Biden administration did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
The Texas complaint (pdf), filed in a federal court in Galveston, asks the court to declare Biden’s vaccine mandate unlawful and to issue preliminary and injunctive relief to block it from being enforced.
“The Biden Administration has repeatedly expressed its disdain for Americans who choose not to get a vaccine, and it has committed repeated and abusive federal overreach to force upon Americans something they do not want,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said in a statement Friday. “The federal government does not have the ability to strip individuals of their choice to get a vaccine or not. If the President thinks his patience is wearing thin, he is clearly underestimating the lack of patience from Texans whose rights he is infringing.”
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott, a Republican, praised the lawsuit late Friday. “Under my Executive Order no Texan can be forced to take the vaccine shot,” he said on Twitter, referring to the order he issued on Oct. 11 that prohibits vaccine mandates by any entity. He added, “Biden’s order should be ruled illegal.”
The lawsuit accuses the Biden administration of “using subterfuge to accomplish what they cannot achieve directly—universal compliance with their vaccine mandates, regardless of individual preferences, healthcare needs, or religious beliefs.”
‘Unconstitutional, Unlawful, Unwise’
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson on Friday co-led a ten-state coalition in a lawsuit (pdf) against the Biden administration. The suit calls the administration’s mandate “unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise.”
“If the federal government attempts to unconstitutionally exert its will and force federal contractors to mandate vaccinations, the workforce and businesses could be decimated, further exacerbating the supply chain and workforce crises,” Schmitt, a Republican, said in a statement. “The federal government should not be mandating vaccinations, and that’s why we filed suit today—to halt this illegal, unconstitutional action.”
In explaining how the vaccine mandate violates the Procurement Act, the complaint reads, “Far from increasing economy and efficiency in procurement, the contractor vaccine mandate will have deleterious effects on economy and inefficiency by causing the large-scale resignations of unvaccinated employees of federal contractors. These disruptive consequences will directly oppose both ‘economy’ and ‘efficiency.’”
Among other counts, the suit also contends the administration has violated the Anti-Commandeering Doctrine and the Administrative Procedures Act.
Georgia also led a multi-state lawsuit (pdf) against the federal mandates on Friday. A release from Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp’s office says the complaint, in part, explains how the Biden administration’s mandate has placed Georgia’s state agencies and officials in “an untenable position.”
“In addition to being an unlawful and unconstitutional overreach, this vaccine mandate on federal contractors will only further divide Americans and hamstring our economy,” Kemp, a Republican, said in a statement. “Polling shows 70 percent of unvaccinated Americans say they would quit their jobs if their company required the COVID-19 vaccine. From an employer’s perspective, 9 in 10 fear significant reductions in their workforce if they had to implement vaccine mandates.”
He added, “We will not allow the Biden Administration to circumvent the law or force hardworking Georgians to choose between their livelihood or this vaccine.”
The suit argues that the mandate could only stand if Congress had passed it in a law.
States furthermore argue that a large number of federal contract workers will quit over the mandates, meaning states are caught between breaching the federal contracts either because of not being able to complete all the work due to staffing shortages, or because of retaining unvaccinated workers, thereby violating the federal vaccine requirement.