Biden administration wants legal cases against vaccine mandate consolidated 

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Its private employer vaccine mandate on hold, the Biden administration wants the multiple challenges to its workplace rule—including Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry’s—consolidated in a single federal court and has asked for a decision by early next week.

The U.S. Department of Justice said in court filings today that one of the federal circuit courts should be chosen at random on Nov. 16 to hear the cases.

At least 27 states plus several businesses and associations filed a dozen legal challenges in at least six federal appeals courts after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration released its rules last week. All the states have a Republican governor or attorney general.

Over the weekend, judges on the New Orleans-based 5th Circuit U.S. Court of Appeals paused the rule from taking effect, saying it raises “grave statutory and constitutional issues.” White House spokesperson Karine Jean-Pierre has expressed confidence that the COVID-19 vaccine mandate can withstand any legal challenges.

The mandate would apply to private businesses with more than 100 workers. Employees who do not receive the shots by Jan. 4 would be required to wear a mask and be tested weekly for the coronavirus. The OSHA rules create exemptions for workers citing religious objections and for those who do not interact in-person with co-workers or customers, as well as those who work only outdoors.

Republican state attorneys general and others sued on the grounds that the federal government does not have the right to make the regulation, partly because COVID-19 is not a workplace-specific danger.

Jean-Pierre says the mandate is about keeping people safe and that Congress has empowered the Labor Department to act with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Vaccine mandates, including those for certain federal employees and the military, are a key component of the Biden administration’s strategy for containing a pandemic that has killed 750,000 people in the U.S.

The administration announced plans for the workplace rule in September and unveiled the plans Nov. 4. Many Republican governors and state attorneys general signaled ahead of time that they would challenge it immediately, as they did with multiple federal lawsuits filed Friday.

The states filed in the most conservative appeals courts in the country, where appointees of former President Donald Trump bolstered Republican-appointed majorities. Read the full story.