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Texas sues Biden over vaccine mandate for federal contractor employees

Texas says if it does not give in to Biden's coercion, it stands to lose more than $7.32 billion in future contracts with the federal government.

GALVESTON, Texas (CN) — Texas sued President Joe Biden on Friday, seeking a declaration his mandate that all federal contractor employees get vaccinated against Covid-19 by Dec. 8 is unconstitutional.

The lawsuit, filed in Galveston federal court, also names as defendants the three co-chairs of the Safer Federal Workplace Task Force, which Biden established on his first day in office to provide guidance for the safety of federal employees during the coronavirus pandemic.

Implementing a decree Biden signed Sept. 9, the task force issued a directive setting a Dec. 8 deadline for “covered contractor employees” to be fully vaccinated and a stipulation that all federal contracts must include the clause starting Nov. 14.

Texas claims the mandate is too broad because it applies to federal contractor employees who have already been infected with Covid-19, those who are working outdoors, working remotely at home full-time and even people whose job duties have nothing to do with the covered contract.

“Defendants effectively claim for themselves a general police power to control American life, infringing on states’ sovereignty and usurping the powers reserved to the states under the Constitution,” the complaint states.

The omission of natural immunity — antibodies triggered when people catch the virus — as an alternative to vaccination is a major oversight in the decree, Texas claims: “By all indications, natural immunity confers superior resistance to COVID-19 than any of the currently available vaccines, and one in three Americans had COVID by the end of 2020.”

Texas also says that in imposing the mandate, Biden and the Safer Federal Workplace Task Force failed to explain why other best practices in fighting the spread of Covid-19 were not considered, such as requiring federal contractors to frequently test their staff for the virus in lieu of vaccines.

Fed up with vaccine-resistant Americans amid a spike in Covid-19 cases and deaths caused by the highly infectious Delta variant, Biden announced a new plan Sept. 9 that, in addition to the rule for federal contractor employees, requires all employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated, or tested every week, and requires vaccinations for all federal employees, hospital and nursing home workers — mandates that cover more than 80 million Americans.

In response to Biden’s push, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued an executive order Oct. 11 barring all entities in Texas, including private businesses, from forcing anyone to get Covid-19 vaccines.

Employment law experts say while Abbott’s order does not block private businesses from mandating their employees get vaccinated, it does provide broad protections as it gives workers the right to object to the shots “for any reason of personal conscience, based on a religious belief, or for medical reasons, including prior recovery from COVID-19.”

Texas claims Biden imposed the rules on federal contractor employees without first putting them through a required notice-and-comment period in which the public can weigh in.

Texas says if it does not give in to Biden's coercion, it stands to lose more than $7.32 billion in future contracts with the federal government.

“Additionally, the State of Texas faces an impending labor shortage as federal labor walkouts and strikes continue to occur as a result of the federal vaccine mandates — potentially leading to significant, concrete financial harm to the State in the form of unemployment benefits and increased Medicaid expenses,” the 34-page lawsuit states.  

Texas cites a recent statement from Greg Hayes, CEO of Dallas-based defense contractor Raytheon Technologies, maker of Tomahawk missiles. Hayes told Reuters the company will lose several thousand employees who refuse to get the vaccine.

The Lone Star State seeks a declaration Biden’s mandate is unconstitutional and unenforceable.

“The federal government does not have the ability to strip individuals of their choice to get a vaccine or not,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said. “If the president thinks his patience is wearing thin, he is clearly underestimating the lack of patience from Texans whose rights he is infringing.” 

Paxton strategically filed the complaint in Galveston federal court.

Only one federal judge presides in the Galveston federal courthouse, U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, a Donald Trump appointee. So it is certain the case will be assigned to him.  

The lawsuit also names as defendants Agricultural Department Secretary Tom Vilsack, Defense Department Secretary Lloyd Austin, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, Acting Director of the Office of Budget and Management Shalanda Young and Administrator of the General Services Administration Robin Carnahan.

More than 69,800 Texans have died from Covid-19, according to the Texas Department of State Health Services.

“As of Oct. 27, 17.7 million people have received at least one dose, which is 60.8% of Texas’ population, and 15.4 million people, or 52.9%, are fully vaccinated,” the Texas Tribune stated in a report Friday.

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