His mandate to vaccinate a private employer has been suspended, the Biden administration wants multiple challenges to his workplace regulations to be consolidated in a single federal court and has asked for a decision by early next week.
On Monday, the US Department of Justice said one of the federal district courts should be selected at random to hear cases.
At least 27 states plus several businesses and associations have filed a dozen lawsuits in at least six federal appeals courts after the OSHA published its rules last week. All states have a Republican governor or attorney general.
Over the weekend, judges of the US 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans suspended the rule from entry into force, saying it raises “serious legislative and constitutional issues.” White House spokeswoman Karin Jean-Pierre on Monday expressed confidence that the mandate for the COVID-19 vaccine can withstand any legal challenge.
“This is the authority that we believe the Ministry of Labor has,” Jean-Pierre told reporters during the briefing. “We are very confident about that.”
The mandate will apply to private enterprises employing more than 100 people. Employees who do not receive injections by January 4 will be required to wear a mask and be tested for coronavirus weekly. OSHA rules make exceptions for workers who cite religious objection, those who do not communicate in person with colleagues or clients, and those who only work outdoors.
Republican state attorneys general and others have sued on the grounds that the federal government has no power to take action, in part because COVID-19 poses no workplace hazard.
Jean-Pierre said the mandate was to ensure the safety of people and that Congress authorized the Department of Labor to act in accordance with the Occupational Safety and Health Act 1970. Vaccination responsibilities, including for certain federal employees and the military, are a key component of the Biden administration’s strategy to contain the pandemic that killed 750,000 people in the United States.
It says widespread vaccinations are the fastest way out of a pandemic.
“People shouldn’t wait” for vaccinations, Jean-Pierre said.
The administration announced plans to set the workplace rule in September and unveiled the plans on November 4. Many Republican governors and state attorneys general made it clear in advance that they would immediately challenge him, as they did with numerous federal lawsuits filed on Friday.
The states have filed with the nation’s most conservative appellate courts, where former President Donald Trump’s appointees supported a Republican-appointed majority. It was not entirely clear whether the emergency deferral granted on Saturday by the 5th arrondissement extended to the entire country or only to the states that filed the case – Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, Texas and Utah.
The 5th Circuit’s order read “The mandate remains in effect pending further action by this court,” but did not specify whether it only applied to five states. Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said it was filed nationally but says it was filed in another court, asking for clarification on Monday.
“While the Fifth Circuit ruling could be interpreted as having national effect, it does not make a clear statement on this matter,” the state said in a statement to the St. Louis 8th Circuit Court of Appeals. “To avoid confusion and to ensure full protection of their rights, the applicants respectfully ask this Court to issue a similar order here.”
A group of states, businesses and organizations challenging the 8th arrondissement rule also called on Monday to quickly review their challenge to the rule in the workplace.
“Thousands of employers and millions of working families will immediately feel its impact. The court must act promptly to prevent these illegal and unconstitutional injuries, ”the groups said in court documents.
Associated Press contributors Josh Boak and Zeke Miller from Washington DC and Andrew DeMillo from Little Rock, Arkansas contributed to this report.