Indiana will file three lawsuits to challenge federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates for large private employers, certain health care workers and federal contractors, Indiana’s Republican Attorney General Todd Rokita announced Thursday.
Gov. Eric Holcomb, also Republican, expressed his support for the legal challenge, saying he had directed the Indiana Department of Labor to work with the attorney general to oppose the mandates.
The Republican pushback came just hours after the Democratic administration of President Joe Biden finalized rules for federal vaccine mandates that are set to be enforced starting Jan. 4.
One set of rules sets up vaccination-or-test requirements for businesses with more than 100 workers, regulated through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
Another implements a vaccine mandate for health care workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid. Biden also issued an executive order requiring federal contractors to ensure their employees are vaccinated, and details on that were released Monday.
Rokita said the three separate lawsuits will address each component of the Biden administration’s rules. The suits will be filed starting this afternoon and over the coming days his office reviews the rules.
Indiana will likely be joined by Mississippi and Louisiana on the contractor lawsuit, Rokita said.
Rokita said the primary legal argument against the OSHA mandate for businesses is that it is government overreach and a misuse of the OSHA law.
“It’s again egregious and insidious that you’d use something, a law that was meant to protect workers at the workplace from dangerous toxicities from other directly unsafe situations, to use it in this fashion,” Rokita said. “And that’s how we’re going to win the case, by the way.”
He also noted that the federal mandate would nullify a law passed by the Indiana Legislature this session preventing state or local government agencies from requiring anyone, including employees, to show proof of vaccination.
That’s because state and local governments in Indiana and other states that operate their own occupational safety and health regulatory programs must adopt rules at least as stringent as as federal OSHA requirements.
Holcomb also called the vaccine mandates an “overreach.”
“While I agree that the vaccine is the tool that will best protect against COVID-19, this federal government approach is unprecedented and will bring about harmful, unintended consequences in the supply chain and the workforce,” Holcomb said in a statement.
Indiana Republicans are also challenging the federal vaccine mandates at the congressional level.
U.S. Sen. Mike Braun is leading 40 other Senate Republicans in efforts to disapprove and nullify Biden’s vaccine mandate under the Congressional Review Act. Sen. Todd Young, also representing Indiana, has joined the effort.
“Since the announcement of President Biden’s vaccine and testing mandate in September, I have led the charge to strike down this vast overstep of authority by the federal government,” Braun said in a statement on Wednesday.
“Today, we are one step closer to protecting the liberties of millions of Americans in the private sector workforce under the Congressional Review Act. I urge my Senate colleagues to vote in favor of this disapproval resolution in the coming weeks.”