AG Yost files lawsuits challenging Biden administration’s vaccine mandates

R-H Staff

COLUMBUS — Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost and six other attorneys general sued the Biden administration in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit last week, asserting that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration lacks authority to force tens of millions of Americans in the private sector to get vaccinated.

The states are asking the Sixth Circuit to stop implementation of the vaccine mandate while the case is litigated.

“A nationwide vaccine mandate that has nothing to do with workplace risk is a dangerous and unlawful use of executive power,” Yost said. “Congress has not given the president the power to make personal health-care decisions for all Americans who just so happen to work at a company with at least 100 employees.”

Despite warnings from attorneys general across the country about the legality of a vaccine mandate, the Biden administration formally issued the emergency temporary standard today.

The coalition of attorneys general argues that the power to issue emergency temporary standards was delegated to OSHA by Congress for the express purpose of protecting employees from grave dangers posed by exposure to substances or harmful toxins encountered at work, such as benzyne or beryllium.

That authority does not extend to risks that are equally prevalent at work as at home, the grocery store, or, say, the Met Gala.

The coalition writes in the lawsuit that just last year, “OSHA refused to issue a nationwide emergency temporary standard for COVID-19 because ‘COVID-19 is a community-wide hazard that is not unique to the workplace.’”

The coalition also contends that the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate prohibits sovereign states from enacting and enforcing their own policies in response to the pandemic.

“Each Petitioner State has enacted its own laws and policies — or declined to issue certain mandates — in a way that balances the need for public health with the right of its citizens,” the lawsuit says. OSHA’s mandate takes away that power from the states and prevents policymakers from enacting policies that benefit their respective states.

Yost joined the lawsuit alongside attorneys general from Idaho, Kansas, Kentucky, Oklahoma, Tennessee, and West Virginia.

Yost has filed a lawsuit to block the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors, which will result in the release of dangerous ICE detainees being held in county jails across Ohio.

“We have sheriffs that are going to lose a lot of talented deputies to this mandate, and they’ll ultimately give up their contracts to house ICE detainees rather than see that happen,” Yost said. “Forcing that kind of choice on people who dedicate their lives to keeping our communities safe creates a needless situation in which everyone loses.”

The suit, filed together with Geauga County Prosecutor Jim Flaiz and Sheriff Scott A. Hildenbrand, Seneca County Sheriff Fredrick W. Stevens and the attorneys general of Kentucky and Tennessee, challenges the Biden administration’s authority to mandate COVID-19 vaccines.

“If our jails see no option but refusing federal ICE detainees, what happens to those detainees, who are prioritized for removal for committing heinous crimes in our communities and posing national security threats? None of us wants to find out,” Yost said. “That’s just one important reason why I’m suing to end this illegal mandate.”

Sheriff’s offices are not the only entities in Ohio with federal contracts, Yost pointed out, noting that the defense, higher education, medical and shipping industries also have them, as well as the State of Ohio itself. A simple online job search shows that many such industries are already desperately looking for workers to fill jobs vital to safety and commerce.

Nationwide, the Department of Labor reports, federal contractors account for about a fifth of the labor force. The coalition of attorneys general filing the lawsuit says the potential workforce loss poses a significant threat to state economies, as it could exacerbate ongoing gaps in the supply chain.

Beyond the issues of how all Americans would be affected by the mandate, Yost said, is the issue of federal overreach.

“I’ve said it many times: The Biden administration may not do whatever it wants however it wants,” he added. “The Constitution lays out critical rules by which the executive branch must operate. Congress and the states have their own powers, which the administration can’t just take over because it wants to.”

In the lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court for the eastern district Kentucky, Ohio, the Bluegrass State and Tennessee maintain that the vaccine mandate is unconstitutional, in part because:

• Police power to enforce mandates falls within a state’s authority, not the federal government’s authority.

• Congress did not give the president authority to issue such a broad mandate.

Other legal actions taken by Yost this year to stop federal overreach:

• In March, he sought an injunction after the federal government offered Ohio $5.4 billion in badly needed pandemic assistance with one massive condition — that the state had to agree to unspecified limits on its power to cut taxes. The AG won that case.

• In August, Yost and 17 other states filed suit after two agencies rewrote federal law on sexual discrimination — a responsibility that belongs to Congress. The lawsuit challenges, among other things, that the Department of Education unilaterally expanded Title IX to apply to sexual orientation and gender identity in schools, and the Equal Employment Opportunity Commission moved to mandate that employers adopt practices regarding pronouns, access to shared bathrooms and other such matters.

• In October, Yost and 19 other states wrote the Treasury Department to oppose a new federal policy that would provide the federal government with access to nearly every American’s bank account and financial transaction information.

Also last month, Yost sued the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to ensure the agency continues public integrity improvements to family planning clinics made in 2019. Those improvements required federally funded family-planning clinics to (1) be physically and financially independent of abortion clinics and (2) refrain from referring patients for abortions. Eleven other states joined his lawsuit.

R-H Staff