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Michigan GOP backs lawsuit to block Biden vaccine mandate

vaccine
Republicans in the Michigan Legislature are throwing their support behind efforts to thwart a vaccine-or-test mandate that could affect 2 million workers in the state. (Shutterstock)

Nov. 17: 5 million Michiganders are vaccinated and COVID is surging. Here’s why
Nov. 15: Hospitals filling up as Michigan records highest COVID case rate in U.S.

LANSING — Michigan's Republican-led Legislature on Wednesday threw support behind a federal lawsuit seeking to block President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine or testing mandate for private employers.

In a legal brief filed with the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals, GOP attorneys called Biden's emergency mandate an "unjustified expansion of the federal government's authority to address occupational hazards" and "an unprecedented intrusion into the sovereign police power historically reserved to the state."

The mandate is already in legal limbo after a Saturday freeze by the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, where a panel of judges warned there was "cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues" with the emergency rules from the Occupational Health and Safety Administration.

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Because of jurisdictional issues, Michigan's GOP-led Legislature is backing a separate suit filed by Republican attorneys general from Kentucky, Ohio and other midwest states. 

The Biden administration, which has moved to consolidate the cases, on Monday urged businesses to continue planning for compliance with the mandate, which will require firms with 100 or more employees to ensure their workers are vaccinated or submit weekly testing results by Jan. 4.

Experts say the case may ultimately end up before the U.S. Supreme Court. 

If it survives a slew of legal challenges, the mandate is expected to cover 2 million Michigan workers, who would need to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 or submit negative test results each week. 

The emergency standard would also require employers to pay workers for time off to get vaccinated. And any unvaccinated employees who submit weekly testing results would also be required to wear masks in the workplace. 

“The Administration is calling on all employers to step up and make these changes as quickly as possible,” the White House said last week in a statement. 

Biden first announced the mandate on Sept. 10, calling it a necessary step because millions of Americans  had declined to get a COVID-19 vaccine. 

"Our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost us all," the president said at the time.

But in Wednesday's court filing, Michigan Republican lawmakers argued the president improperly used a rare emergency power to "conscript" Americans to the COVID-19 mandate despite months of speculation he did not have the authority to do so. 

"One man’s impatience is not a nation’s emergency," GOP attorneys wrote. 

Senate Majority Leader Mike Shirkey, R-Clarklake, announced the legal action Wednesday shortly after the upper chamber adopted a non-binding resolution condemning Biden for what lawmakers called an "authoritarian" mandate. 

The resolution argued the mandate will exacerbate supply chain issues and alleged, without evidence, that the "true purpose" of the vaccine or testing mandate "is control rather than public health."

Sen. Erika Geiss, D-Taylor, accused Republicans of including "blatant falsehoods" in the resolution.

"Here we are again, in what seems to be our usual fashion, doing nothing," Geiss said. "Because apparently this body can't resist another opportunity to play politics with a pointless resolution that accomplishes nothing."

But Shirkey, in a floor speech, called the vaccine or testing mandate a "dangerous" policy that will hurt Michigan businesses. 

"The federal government getting further into their underwear is unnecessary, unwarranted, unproductive and indefensible," Shirkey said.

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