Advance Notice: Briefs

Arizona attorney general first to sue over Biden vaccine mandate on private businesses

By: - September 15, 2021 5:34 am

President Joe Biden arrives in Air Force One at Denver International Airport for a visit to Colorado on September 14, 2021. | Kevin Mohatt for Colorado Newsline

WASHINGTON — Arizona Attorney General Mark Brnovich on Tuesday filed the first lawsuit against the Biden administration’s upcoming COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private companies with at least 100 employees, arguing that the federal requirement violates the U.S. Constitution.

In the legal complaint, Brnovich argues that the vaccine mandate President Joe Biden announced last week violates the Equal Protection Clause, claiming it bypasses the rights of citizens to their bodily integrity and subverts Congress’ authority by exercising powers reserved for legislators, not the executive branch.

Brnovich — who is running for the GOP nomination for U.S. Senate to challenge Democratic Sen. Mark Kelly — also argues that the administration requirement favors undocumented immigrants over American citizens by allowing immigrants to decline the vaccine.

“Although the precise contours of the federal vaccination mandates are not yet clear, the violation of the Equal Protection Clause is already evident and egregious,” the complaint states. “In a nutshell: unauthorized aliens will not be subject to any vaccination requirements even

when released directly into the United States (where most will remain), while roughly a hundred million U.S. citizens will be subject to unprecedented vaccination requirements.”

Under the pending federal requirement, more than 80 million employees of private businesses in the U.S. will be required to get vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly testing.

The requirement for businesses will be enacted through a new rule in the coming weeks from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA.

That rule will require all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforce is fully vaccinated, or to require any workers who remain unvaccinated to produce a negative test result on at least a weekly basis before coming to work, according to a summary released by the administration.

Employees would have time to get a vaccine if they have not done so already, likely in line with the 75 days that federal employees will have to get the one- or two-shot vaccines.

Any companies that do not enforce the rule could be issued fines of up to nearly $14,000 per violation, according to a senior Biden official.

Arizona Gov. Doug Ducey, a Republican, also has criticized the Biden administration’s mandate, blasting it as a “dictatorial approach” that is “wrong, un-American and will do far more harm than good.”

The mandate is expected to face additional legal challenges from Republican officials. Several other governors, including Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, have threatened lawsuits, and the Republican National Committee has said it intends to challenge the federal requirement.

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Laura Olson
Laura Olson

Laura covers the nation's capital as a senior reporter for States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit outlets that includes Michigan Advance. Her areas of coverage include politics and policy, lobbying, elections, and campaign finance.