FILE PHOTO: U.S. President Joe Biden visits Clayco construction site, in Elk Grove Village By Nandita Bose and Tom Hals
(Reuters) – The country’s first national COVID-19 vaccine mandate, expected to be unveiled by the Biden administration this week, is likely to unleash a frenzied legal battle that will hinge on a rarely used law and questions over federal power and authority over healthcare.
States, companies, trade groups, civil liberty advocates and religious organizations are expected to rush to court with demands to stop the mandate in its tracks. Two dozen Republican state attorneys general have already vowed to use "every legal option" to fight the mandate and 40 Republican lawmakers said on Wednesday they were preparing their own challenge.
Details of the vaccine and testing requirements for private employers remain under wraps. The administration has said that the rule is coming and that it requires certain businesses to "develop, implement and enforce" a mandatory policy that allows employees to either choose to get vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work.
For opponents, the general principle could not be more clear: the administration’s zeal for fighting the pandemic with vaccinations and testing has trampled the law and the Constitution.
"There will be so much litigation it will never see the light of day," said Josh Blackman, a professor at South Texas College of Law Houston.
Some legal experts, however, said protecting against a historic public health crisis provides a compelling justification for the mandate against constitutional challenges that claim it infringes on individual or state rights.
COVID-19 vaccine requirements by colleges, cities, states and companies have generally been upheld. The Supreme Court said on Friday that Maine could impose its mandate on healthcare workers, even without the usual religious exemptions.
However, the national vaccine and testing rule, which will likely run hundreds of pages, will differ in important ways from existing vaccine requirements.