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Kevin Cramer, John Hoeven, Kelly Armstrong join push against federal vax mandate

A mandate would affect tens of millions of American workers.

U.S. Capitol dome. iStock.com/S. Greg Panosian
U.S. Capitol dome. iStock.com/S. Greg Panosian

GRAND FORKS — All three members of North Dakota’s congressional delegation have joined a legal brief urging the U.S. Supreme Court to put a sweeping federal vaccine mandate on hold.

That mandate — by which the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would require vaccinations or regular testing for employers with 100 or more workers — was set to appear before the court on Friday.

Such a mandate would affect tens of millions of American workers. But the brief argues that it can’t be imposed without congressional approval, and that it might be best left to states to decide on their own.

“Congress provided no authority — let alone an intelligible principle — for OSHA to become a roving public health agency,” the brief argues, later noting that “OSHA now wants to dictate virus protection measures outside the workplace to stop a virus outbreak that is also taking place outside the workplace.”

Observers note that the Supreme Court, which now has a conservative majority, may find arguments against government intervention persuasive. Indeed, one federal appeals court blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate rules in November before they prevailed before another court in December (as of now, they still have yet to be implemented).

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“President Biden’s vaccine mandate on private employers is a clear violation of individual rights and goes far beyond any authority granted by Congress,” Sen. John Hoeven, R-North Dakota, said in a prepared statement released by his office. “The Supreme Court should act swiftly to prevent the Biden administration from enforcing this requirement.”

The Supreme Court also was expected to hear arguments regarding another mandate from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which affects millions of health care workers, though this is not targeted by the legal brief signed by North Dakota’s leaders.

The timing of the case’s arrival before the Supreme Court is notable. National case counts have surged amid the spread of the omicron variant; that surge is expected to reach North Dakota soon.

“Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible omicron variant, it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement last month.

Hoeven’s North Dakota GOP colleagues, Sen. Kevin Cramer and Rep. Kelly Armstrong, also signed the brief, which argues that the Biden administration’s private-employer vaccine measure is exceeding authority that’s better left to Congress and the states.

The brief also has been signed by numerous other lawmakers from the region, including Rep. Michelle Fischbach, R-Minn., as well as South Dakota GOP Sens. John Thune and Mike Rounds and Rep. Dusty Johnson. Rep. Pete Stuaber, R-Minn., did not appear in a version of the brief widely circulated early this week; his office did not respond to a request for comment prior to Forum News Service’s deadline.

“This coercive action is an egregious overreach by the (federal government) and they should be kept in check,” Cramer tweeted . “Neither Congress nor the Constitution gave them this authority.”

Armstrong, in a Thursday interview, reiterated his opposition to the mandate.

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“The road to hell is paved with good intentions,” he said. “... In the most extraordinary times your rules and procedures and your due process have to work better, not worse. And that doesn’t matter if you’re a construction company in Dickinson or the recipient of a congressional subpoena.”

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