Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, Sept. 24, 2019 | Nick Manes
The Michigan Legislature’s GOP leaders have entered the legal arena to fight President Joe Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large private employers, which supporters say will protect workers but the Republican lawmakers characterize as “authoritarian” and “unlawful.”
Over the past few months, Biden’s administration has rolled out new federal rules that mandate companies with at least 100 employees to require that their workers be vaccinated by Jan. 4. The new regulations, put in place by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), stipulate that unvaccinated workers must undergo weekly testing and wear a face covering.
Employers who refuse to comply with the policies could face hefty fines.
Republicans in Michigan and beyond are fighting the mandates. On Wednesday, the GOP-controlled Michigan House and Senate submitted a brief in federal court in support of the plaintiffs in Commonwealth of KY, et al v. OSHA, et al, a lawsuit in which the attorneys general in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee are challenging the OSHA rules in the 6th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals.
The Michigan Legislature’s amicus brief essentially argues that the new mandates are constitutional overreaches of the federal government’s power.
“It is an unjustified expansion of the federal government’s authority to address occupational hazards and, with that expansion, an unprecedented intrusion into the sovereign police power historically reserved to the states,” the filing reads in part.
Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey (R-Clarklake) also called the mandate “the death knell of the American dream” in a statement.
Meanwhile, billions of dollars that were allocated to Michigan through the various stimulus programs passed at the federal level continue to sit unused for more than a year, while people across our state continue to suffer under the weight of it all.
– State Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor)
In addition to joining the federal court case, the GOP-led state Senate on Wednesday also approved a non-binding resolution condemning the employer vaccine mandates.
Senate Resolution 83 also urges Gov. Gretchen Whitmer and state Attorney General Dana Nessel, both Democrats, to challenge the federal regulation through “all available avenues.”
“Health care decisions, including whether or not to get vaccinated, are deeply personal and should not be subject to intrusive and autocratic edicts from the government,” the resolution reads, before offering up “natural immunity” as another reason to oppose the rules.
Shirkey described the rules as “the federal government getting further into [businesses’] underwear” during a speech on the chamber floor Wednesday.
SR 83 passed the state Senate in a party line vote.
In a statement afterwards, state Sen. Erika Geiss (D-Taylor) called the resolution nothing but “an opportunity [for Republicans] to play politics and peddle divisive rhetoric.”
“Meanwhile, billions of dollars that were allocated to Michigan through the various stimulus programs passed at the federal level continue to sit unused for more than a year, while people across our state continue to suffer under the weight of it all,” Geiss continued, adding that the state Legislature should be focusing on allocating that relief to small businesses and families.
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