Georgia’s legal battle with Biden over vaccine mandates grows

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

Credit: Alyssa Pointer / AJC

Georgia’s top Republicans have expanded their legal battle against President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirements with a new lawsuit that challenges the administration’s plan to mandate vaccinations for millions of employees of private companies.

Gov. Brian Kemp and Attorney General Chris Carr, along with Alabama and Florida officials, filed the lawsuit on Friday to challenge a federal order requiring companies with 100 or more employees to impose mandatory coronavirus vaccinations of their staff or weekly testing by Jan. 4.

A similar legal complaint from Louisiana officials led a federal appeals court on Saturday to temporarily suspend the new vaccine requirement while judges can review the law. It was a setback to Biden’s most aggressive attempt yet to increase vaccinations to contain the pandemic.

The governor said the court’s decision was a “good indication” for his complaint, which also claims the rule is unconstitutional. In late October, he filed a separate lawsuit that claimed the White House doesn’t have legal authority to impose a separate vaccine requirement for federal contractors.

The legal challenges are part of a wave of litigation from Republicans and their allies who frame the vaccine requirements as a federal power grab. Public health experts say the mandates are a crucial step to containing a pandemic that’s killed more than 25,000 Georgians.

The rules, released Thursday, mandate that private employers with more than 100 workers require their staffers be vaccinated or tested weekly for COVID-19. An additional 17 million workers at health care facilities that receive federal medical funding would have to be vaccinated.

The legal challenge questions whether the Occupational and Safety Health administration overstepped its authority by issuing the rule and whether it conflicts with the First Amendment and other religious protections.

The Georgia Highway Contractors Association, the Georgia Motor Trucking Association and Robinson Paving Co. each also joined the complaint.

Kemp and other Republicans have warred with the Biden administration’s vaccination strategy partly to energize conservatives upset with the mandates ahead of a tough 2022 election.

“In addition to vilifying Americans for their personal choices, Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates are unlawful and a recipe for economic disaster,” Kemp said in a statement after filing the latest lawsuit. “With inflation skyrocketing, the supply chain screeching to a halt, and job creators across the country desperately searching for more workers, Biden is pouring gasoline on a fire.”

The Democratic Party of Georgia has called the litigation a “dangerous political stunt.”