White House says ruling against vaccine mandate start of a long fight


White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain on Sunday said he is confident President Biden’s decision to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine or weekly testing at large businesses will hold up in court over, despite a federal appellate court temporarily blocking its implementation.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued the temporary order against the rule citing “grave statutory and constitutional” issues after religious organizations sought relief.

Mr. Klain said the fight is just beginning. He predicted victory before the rule by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is implemented in early January.

“I’m quite confident that when this finally gets fully adjudicated, not just a temporary order, the validity of this requirement will be upheld,” Mr. Klain told NBC’s “Meet the Press.” “If OSHA can tell people to wear a hard hat on the job, to be careful around chemicals, it could put in place these simple measures to keep our workers safe.”

“These vaccine requirements have been litigated up and down the courts all over the country,” he said. “State requirements, for example, one in Maine. And every single court before this one ruled that they were valid. The Supreme Court has turned back several times already various efforts to enjoin other vaccine requirements.”

OSHA published its long-awaited rule on Thursday, kicking the mandate wars into overdrive.

Republican lawmakers and allies are fighting the mandate, which requires companies with 100 or more workers to determine the vaccination status of their workers by Dec. 5 and begin regular testing of those who remain unvaccinated by Jan. 4.

Mr. Klain said given the timeline, the Fifth Circuit’s decision isn’t that impactful.

“I think what it means, for the time being, is that the effectiveness of that vaccine requirement is frozen,” Mr. Klain said. “I think it will certainly be well litigated though well before January 3rd. So I’m not sure it really has much practical effect in the short run.”

OSHA projects that 23 million more Americans will get vaccinated under the rule, though some private modeling suggests the impact will be milder.

Only 58% of the U.S. population is fully vaccinated, although nearly eight in 10 eligible persons have received at least one shot.

The Food and Drug Administration and Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recently made 28 million children ages 5-11 eligible for vaccination.

In addition to at least three legal actions from faith-based employers, nearly two dozen states last week announced federal lawsuits against the mandate.

Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt, along with 10 other states, argue in court papers the requirement runs afoul of states’ rights, which should have authority over police powers to patrol citizens’ safety.

“For over a century, the U.S. Supreme Court has recognized that policies on compulsory vaccination lie within the police powers of the States, and that ‘[t]hey are matters that do not ordinarily concern the national government,’ ” the complaint read.

Joining the petition to the 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals are Arizona, Nebraska, Montana, Arkansas, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Alaska, New Hampshire and Wyoming.

Other states also teamed up to challenge Mr. Biden’s vaccine mandate. Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah filed a lawsuit in the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, while Oklahoma, Kentucky, Idaho, Kansas, Ohio, Tennessee, and West Virginia launched their lawsuit in the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Mr. Biden proposed the mandate in a September speech. The new rules were rolled out last week by OSHA and apply to 84 million workers.

It directs large companies to require employees to get vaccinated by Jan. 4, or else pay for them to get tested weekly. Employees who are not vaccinated will also have to wear a face mask.

Under the rule, employers must also give employees paid leave for them to get the vaccines and recover from any side effects.

Employers are subject to a $14,000 fine per violation under the new federal rule.

“The federal government should not be forcing private employers to require their employees to get vaccinated or foot the cost to test those employees weekly,” said Mr. Schmitt, the Missouri attorney general who is also running for U.S. Senate.

Alex Swoyer and Mark A. Kellner contributed to this report.

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