Politics

Texas has joined a lawsuit to block Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine rules for private employers

The lawsuit came one day after the White House’s announcement of an OSHA rule implementing the vaccine or testing mandate first announced in September.

Updated 7:10 p.m. CT

Texas has joined four other states and seven private companies to sue the Biden administration over a COVID-19 vaccine rule for large private employers.

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton announced the lawsuit Friday morning.

The new U.S. Department of Labor rule mandates businesses with more than 100 employees to come up with a COVID-19 vaccination plan that includes either mandating vaccines for employees or carrying out a testing program. The mandate will be implemented through the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

In a statement, Paxton called the mandate “a breathtaking abuse of federal power."

“This ‘standard' is flatly unconstitutional,” Paxton said. “Bottom line: Biden's new mandate is bad policy and bad law, and I'm asking the Court to strike it down.”

The petition was filed directly with the U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, widely viewed as the most conservative appeals court in the country. It’s formally directed at the U.S. Labor Department, Labor Secretary Martin Walsh, OSHA, and Douglas Parker, assistant secretary of labor for occupational safety and health.

Seema Nanda, the solicitor of labor at the U.S. Department of Labor, told Houston Public Media that the mandate is “well within OSHA's authority under the law and is consistent with OSHA's requirements to protect the health and safety of workers.”

“The U.S. Department of Labor is confident in its legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard on vaccination and testing,” Nanda said. “The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them.”

Paxton said his next step will be to file a motion for stay, laying out the arguments for the appeals court to halt implementation of the mandate.

The rule, which Biden first announced in September, would would apply to an estimated 84 million workers nationwide. If an employee opts to get vaccinated, they would be forced to do so no later than Jan. 4, 2022.

This is a developing story and will be updated.

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Andrew Schneider

Andrew Schneider

Politics and Government Reporter

Andrew heads Houston Public Media’s coverage of national, state, and local elections. He also reports on major policy issues before the Texas Legislature and county and city governments across Greater Houston. Before taking up his current post, Andrew spent five years as Houston Public Media’s business reporter, covering the oil...

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