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Florida sues Biden over vaccine mandate for federal contractors

The Sunshine State’s federal lawsuit calls the president’s executive order unlawful and a threat to the state’s economy.

TAMPA, Fla. (CN) — Florida challenged President Joe Biden’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors on Thursday, the latest salvo from Governor Ron DeSantis on the president’s response to the pandemic.

Florida Attorney General Ashley Moody filed the lawsuit in Tampa federal court, seeking to overturn Biden’s September executive order requiring the vaccinations by Dec. 8. The 28-page complaint argues the Democratic president does not have the authority to issue such an “unlawful” mandate that violates administrative and procurement law.

“Because Florida’s employees are generally not required to be vaccinated, the challenged actions threaten Florida with the loss of millions of dollars in future contracting opportunities and put undue pressure on Florida to create new policies and change existing ones, each of which threatens Florida with imminent irreparable harm,” the complaint states.

Florida is the first state to challenge the executive order.

In addition to Biden, the lawsuit names as defendants NASA Administrator Bill Nelson and officials in the Department of Defense and Office of Management and Budget. A large number of federal contractors, especially at NASA and companies with defense contracts, call the Sunshine State home.

DeSantis and Moody, both Republicans, announced the lawsuit in Lakeland, lambasting the “heavy-handed mandates that are being hung over people’s heads to deprive them of the ability to earn a living.”

“President Biden does not have the authority to force millions of Americans to receive a shot, nor does he have the ability to punish Florida economically for not abiding by his authoritarian, unlawful and unconstitutional executive order,” Moody told reporters.

DeSantis, who is considered a possible presidential contender in 2024, has frequently fought with Biden on his approaches to the Covid-19 pandemic. While Biden has supported mask mandates on federal grounds and in schools, DeSantis consistently opposed any mask decrees. The governor is expected to call a special legislative session later this year to address statewide mask and vaccine mandates.

“Just months ago, Joe Biden was saying that it wouldn’t be appropriate or lawful for the federal government to mandate these Covid shots,” the governor said. “But now we have somehow gone from 15 days to slow the spread to three jabs to keep your job. The federal government is exceeding their power and it is important for us to take a stand because in Florida we believe these are choices based on individual circumstances.”

A day earlier, Jeff Zients, the White House coronavirus response coordinator, defended the vaccine mandate and brushed away concerns that they could affect the nation’s economy or supply chains.

“The requirements for federal workers and contractors will not cause disruption,” Zients told reporters during a press briefing, stressing the deadline is still weeks away.

“But even once we hit those deadlines, we expect federal agencies and contractors will follow their standard HR processes and that, for any of the probably relatively small percent of employees that are not in compliance, they’ll go through education, counseling, accommodations and then enforcement,” he added. “The purpose, I think, most importantly, is to get people vaccinated and protected, not to punish them. So, we do not expect any disruptions. These deadlines are not cliffs.”

The Biden administration is also planning on rolling out a vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees after a review by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. According to the White House, the requirement would impact more than 80 million workers. DeSantis has vowed to challenge that rule, too.

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