Those against the vaccine are outraged over the new order. Is it constitutional?
The Biden Administration issued a nationwide vaccine mandate on Sept. 9 for businesses with 100+ employees. With the already high tension between the vaccinated and unvaccinated, many are threatening to sue and resist orders, further pushing the US into a spiral of division.
What Biden’s new plan will require of employees
The new vaccine mandate will target four groups of workers and employers: private employers, federal employees and contractors, teachers and staff from federal education-related programs and health care workers.
With the large number of people working among these groups, this mandate could affect as many as 100 million people.
Private employers will be forced to require their employees to get the vaccine or otherwise be tested for the virus at least once a week. Federal employees and contractors who work with the government will not have a choice but to get the vaccine; the option to opt out of a vaccine in favor of regularly getting tested is not available to this group.
Businesses and employees who refuse to follow these orders will face a fine of up to $14,000 per violation by the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
Biden said a part of his goal is to get the unvaccinated vaccinated through his six-part “Path out of the Pandemic” plan. This strategic plan follows what they have deemed a “science-based approach” to the pandemic, having already combatted previous variants of COVID-19 earlier this year.
“We’re going to reduce the spread of COVID-19 by increasing the share of the workforce that is vaccinated in businesses all across America,” Biden said in regards to the plan.
How the vaccine mandates will be implemented
The Biden Administration plans to execute these changes through the use of executive orders (EO) and the rulemaking authority of federal agencies. Upon issuing the order last week, Biden signed two EOs concerning the COVID-19 vaccine.
The first EO was the Executive Order on Requiring Coronavirus Disease 2019 Vaccination for Federal Employees. The second was the Executive Order on Ensuring Adequate COVID Safety Protocols for Federal Contractors.
The vaccine mandate will be directly enforced by OSHA and will continue to go into effect in the coming weeks as an emergency temporary standard (ETS) is issued. It is not clear yet when the ETS will be properly announced but OSHA said to be prepared ahead of time. The administration is warning businesses to urge their employees to get vaccinated now.
Within the last week, however, the mandate already faces Republican political opposition and legal challenges.
What the public is saying
As citizens across the US continue to hear word of the vaccine mandates, many are lashing out in protest. In South Carolina, Republican Gov. Henry McMaster says he will fight, “to the gates of hell to protect the liberty and livelihood of every South Carolinian.”
Others argue that Biden is ordering Americans to act against their constitutional rights.
“The federal government has no police power, and likewise no authority to force private employers of any size to mandate vaccines,” said the New Civil Liberties Alliance, a nonprofit conservative group.
Arizona’s Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Tuesday filed the first lawsuit against the Biden Administration. He called the upcoming ETS an unconstitutional exercise of “unbridled power.” The complaint argues that Biden’s recent order instructing OSHA to adopt and enforce the rule surpasses his executive authority. His actions further violate the Constitution’s equal protection clause through discrimination.
“It’s an unprecedented attempt by the federal government to impose something on the American people that clearly is not among the president’s enumerated powers,” Brnovich said.
Brnovich also pointed out a tweet from the president’s Chief of Staff Stephanie Ruhle that recognized the federal government’s lack of authority to mandate the vaccine.
“OSHA doing this vaxx mandate as an emergency workplace safety rule is the ultimate work-around for the Federal govt to require vaccinations.”
As many argue that the mandate is unconstitutional, the standing law from the Supreme Court is a ruling that suggests Americans do not have a constitutional right to harm their fellow citizens by refusing a vaccine. The case, from 1905, is claimed by some to have relevance to this mandate. Others have refused to address the legality of the administrative power given to OSHA in this mandate.
With much opposition ahead of it, the mandates face a tough road to implementation, however, the Biden Administration continues to warn Americans to get vaccinated sooner than later.