Montana leads a coalition of 12 states in a lawsuit to stop President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for health care workers.
On November 5, The Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) published an interim final rule requiring certain medicare and Medicaid staff to be vaccinated against the coronavirus.
The CMS rule came on the same day the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) published a rule requiring businesses with 100 or more employees to mandate vaccines or implement frequent testing procedures. However, unlike the OSHA rule, the CMS rule provides no testing alternative to the 17 million health care workers across the country.
OSHA recently suspended enforcement of its vaccine requirement until pending litigation is finished after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit reaffirmed its stay of the mandate.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen is joined by attorneys general for the states of Louisiana, Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Mississippi, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. In addition, the lawsuit names the U.S Department of Health and Human Services (HHS), CMS, and their respective leaders, Xavier Becerra and Chiquita Brooks-LaSure, as defendants. Knudsen said in a statement:
President Biden’s trio of COVID vaccine mandates is an unconstitutional power grab and intrusion into Montanans’ lives. Federal judges have already blocked one mandate from going into effect, and the mandate for healthcare workers should be no different. The federal mandates are not about health – they are about forced compliance. Healthcare workers should be allowed to make their own decisions about their health – not President Biden.
The lawsuit alleges the CMS rule violates its statutory authority, the Social Security Act, the Spending Clause, the anti-commandeering doctrine, the Administrative Procedure Act, and the Tenth Amendment.
The 12 states seek a preliminary injunction to prevent CMS from implementing its mandate, arguing that it would cause economic injuries and harm to each state’s sovereignty.
Knudsen warned the mandate would harm rural Montana because the already short-staffed health care facilities would lose more than one-third of their staff who remain unvaccinated. The lawsuit reads:
By forcing a significant number of healthcare workers to take the shot(s) or exit the Medicare and Medicaid workforce, CMS’s Vaccine Mandate harms access to (and thus quality of) patient care. His ‘one- size-fits-all sledgehammer’ expressly undermines the Social Security Act’s singular focus on providing access to care.
“The Vaccine Mandate causes grave danger to the vulnerable persons whom Medicare and Medicaid were designed to protect—the poor, children, sick, and the elderly—by forcing the termination of millions of essential ‘healthcare heroes.’”
Montana Attorney General Knudsen relies heavily on the recent U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit decision reaffirming a stay on Biden’s OSHA vaccine mandate. The Motion for Preliminary Injunction reads:
Just like the now-stayed OSHA ETS—which ‘commandeers U.S. employers to compel millions of employees to receive a COVID-19 vaccine or bear the burden of weekly testing. The Vaccine Mandate violates this doctrine by requiring Plaintiff States’ state-run hospitals covered by the Mandate to either fire their unvaccinated employees or lose all Medicare and Medicaid funding.
The case is Montana v. Becerra and has not yet been assigned a docket number in the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana.