Health

Texas will challenge the constitutionality of the Biden administration’s new Covid vaccine mandate in a lawsuit

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Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton

Tony Gutierrez | AP

Texas challenged the Biden government on Friday over its Covid vaccine mandate for private companies, arguing that the new federal regulations were unconstitutional.

Attorney General Ken Paxton has filed a petition in the US Fifth District Court of Appeals for review challenging the validity of the government’s mandate. Paxton said he will soon be filing a motion asking the court to suspend the mandate.

Paxton described the vaccine mandate in a statement as “a breathtaking abuse of federal power” that was “thoroughly unconstitutional”. He argued that the mandate goes beyond the “limited powers and specific responsibilities” of the labor protection agency, which announced the new workplace regulations earlier this week.

The attorneys general of Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah joined the petition along with several companies.

OSHA, which oversees occupational safety for the Department of Labor, developed the vaccine mandate under the Emergency Agency, which enables the agency to shorten the normal process of issuing new occupational safety standards, which often takes years.

OSHA may use its emergency powers when the Secretary of Labor determines that a new hazard exposes workers to serious danger and an emergency standard is required to protect them.

“A virus that has killed more than 745,000 Americans with more than 70,000 new cases per day is clearly a health hazard right now that poses a serious threat to workers,” Labor Department attorney Seema Nanda said during a news conference Thursday .

United States President Joe Biden will give an update on the Covid-19 Response and Vaccination program on October 14, 2021 in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington, DC.

Nicholas Comb | AFP | Getty Images

The Biden government says its vaccine mandate will repeal any state laws preventing companies from implementing the new federal requirements.

Nanda said the national mandate precedes state laws on Covid-19 vaccines, masks, and tests unless those laws are part of a federally approved occupational safety plan that is at least as effective as federal requirements.

“The question we always have that we ask Republicans is, why are they in the way? Why do they stand in the way of trying to protect and save lives? That’s all we’re trying to do. ”House deputy press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters on Thursday.

The vaccination mandate, which applies to companies with 100 or more employees, came into force on the Friday after it was published in the federal register.

The mandate requires companies that their employees have received their vaccinations by January 4th or submit a negative Covid test at least once a week. Unvaccinated workers must wear masks indoors from December 5th. The mandates include 84 million private sector employees.

Texas Governor Greg Abbott speaks during the Houston Region Business Coalition’s monthly meeting October 27, 2021 in Houston, Texas.

Brandon Bell | Getty Images

Texas Governor Greg Abbott last month banned vaccine mandates through an executive order. Abbott had asked the state legislature to replace its order with law, but the legislation found the legislature unsavory after several corporate groups opposed the state’s ban on vaccine mandates.

Abbott also issued an ordinance in May banning local governments from requiring people to wear masks. Several school districts sued Abbott over the ruling.

Paxton and almost every other Republican attorney general in the United States, in a letter to President Joe Biden in September, threatened to use “every available legal option” to end the mandate.

Republicans and some industry lobbyists have argued that the current threat from Covid does not pose a serious threat as claimed by the Biden administration. They point to the increasing number of vaccinations and natural immunity in the US to previous infections, as well as the containment measures already in place by many companies in the workplace.

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