Republicans threaten legal action over Biden’s Covid vaccine mandate

Plan to force companies to ensure employees get vaccinated or tested draws ire

US president Joe Biden has announced plans to force businesses to require employees either to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or to test regularly. Photograph: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

US president Joe Biden has announced plans to force businesses to require employees either to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or to test regularly. Photograph: AP Photo/Andrew Harnik

 

Senior Republicans are threatening to take Joe Biden’s administration to court over the US president’s plan to force businesses to require employees either to get vaccinated against Covid-19 or to test regularly.

Republican governors are seeking to block the move, which Mr Biden announced on Thursday in an attempt to boost the country’s flagging vaccination rate and slow the spread of the Delta variant.

Doug Ducey, the Arizona governor, accused the president of taking a “dictatorial approach”, illustrating how deep the country’s political divide has become over how to tackle the pandemic.

Brian Kemp, the Republican governor of Georgia, wrote on Twitter on Thursday night: “I will pursue every legal option available to the state of Georgia to stop this blatantly unlawful over-reach by the Biden administration.”

Kristi Noem, governor of South Dakota, tweeted: “South Dakota will stand up to defend freedom. @JoeBiden see you in court.”

Nebraska governor Pete Ricketts called Mr Biden’s announcement a “stunning violation of personal freedom”.

In a statement, he added: “Americans, not the federal government, are responsible for taking charge of their personal health. It is not the role of the federal government to mandate their choices.

“Nebraska will stand up to President Biden’s over-reach, and we will be working with the attorney-general to explore all our options.”

Mr Biden planned to visit a school in Washington, DC on Friday to talk about his plans and specifically how his administration is trying to keep schools open even as the virus spreads.

According to the latest data from the US Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, an average of about 140,000 people are getting infected every day and 1,000 are dying.

New rules

Mr Biden said he had asked the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (Osha), which makes US health and safety regulations, to draw up rules forcing companies with 100 employees or more either to get vaccinated or to test at least once a week.

It is now up to Osha to determine the scope of those laws, including how employees will prove their vaccination status and whether the rules will apply to those working remotely.

One senior administration official said Osha could fine companies up to $14,000 (€11,800) per violation if they did not comply with the final rule.

Mr Biden also tightened the vaccine mandate for people working for the federal government, who will no longer be able to test regularly as an alternative to getting inoculated.

The president said he had taken the measures because vaccinated people were “running out of patience” with those who continued to refuse to be jabbed.

It was welcomed by some large corporate groups, such as the Business Roundtable, whose chief executive Joshua Bolten said in a statement: “Over the past several weeks many companies have decided to implement a vaccine mandate for some or all of their employees, a decision we applaud.”

There are also signs the move is popular in the swing states that Mr Biden needs to win next year to maintain his congressional majority. Steve Schale, a Democratic campaigner, said he had helped carry out polling in August in Arizona, Georgia, Michigan, Pennsylvania and Wisconsin, which showed roughly two-thirds of voters supported mandates either to get vaccinated or test frequently.

The political columnist Greg Sargent posted on Twitter on Thursday: “The idea that angering anti-vaxxers will have bad political consequences for Dems is misplaced. It misses the fact that Dem voter groups will also get energised by this, particularly the ones Dems need in the midterms.”

His message was retweeted by Ron Klain, the White House chief of staff. – The Financial Times