More than two dozen Republican-led states filed lawsuits Friday challenging President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirement for private companies, setting up a high-stakes legal showdown pitting federal authority against states’ rights.
The requirement issued Thursday by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration applies to businesses with more than 100 employees. Their workers must be vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4 or face mask requirements and weekly tests. The lawsuits ask courts to decide whether the administration’s effort to curtail the pandemic represents a federal power grab and usurps the authority of states to set health policy.
At least 26 states filed lawsuits challenging the rule.
“This mandate is unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt said in a court filing in the St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on behalf of 11 states.
Schmitt said Missouri has 3,443 private employers who could be covered by the vaccine requirement, with nearly 1.3 million employees. He said he sued “to protect personal freedoms, preserve Missouri businesses, and push back on bureaucratic tyrants who simply want power and control.”
The Biden administration has been encouraging widespread vaccinations as the quickest way out of the pandemic. A White House spokeswoman said Thursday that the mandate was intended to halt the spread of a disease that has claimed more than 750,000 lives in the U.S.