Arizona attorney general asks judge to block COVID-19 testing, vaccine rules in expanded complaint
Arizona Attorney General and Republican U.S. Senate candidate Mark Brnovich on Friday expanded his legal challenge to President Biden's vaccine or COVID-19 testing requirements for workplaces, which have yet to take effect.
In the press release announcing his new complaint, Brnovich states that "millions of public university employees, federal employees, and contractors ... are now being forced to get their first round of the COVID-19 vaccine or be fired."
Biden issued executive orders last month requiring vaccines for employees at federal agencies and federal contractors.
But nobody needs to get a vaccine to comply with Biden's requirements for companies with 100 or more workers who are not federal contractors or workers. Employees at those companies have the choice of being tested regularly for COVID-19 in place of a vaccine, according to the limited details the administration released.
“Once a vaccine has been administered, it can never be undone,” said Brnovich, who is running for the Republican nomination for the U.S. Senate race next year. “The COVID-19 vaccine mandate is one of the greatest infringements upon individual liberty, federalism, and the separation of powers by any administration in our country’s history.”
Brnovich is hopeful a judge will issue a restraining order and injunction to prevent the rules from taking effect, though legal experts have said the president's rules are legally sound.
Brnovich's office filed a complaint in U.S. District Court for the District of Arizona in September seeking a ruling that declares the new federal policies unconstitutional, even though the full details of the plan are not yet known.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration is expected to announce the final details soon.
The amended complaint adds claims against the rules for federal employees and contractors to Brnovich's original filing.
Under Biden's plan, the requirement for employees to be vaccinated or undergo weekly COVID-19 testing applies to employers with 100 or more workers. Employers that don't comply could face fines of $14,000 per violation.
How companies are responding
Several major companies, including American Airlines and Southwest Airlines, have said they will comply with Biden's rules regardless of pushback from certain states. Arizona has banned local governments from issuing vaccine mandates or requiring "vaccine passports" to enter businesses, though those are on hold due to a court challenge. The governor of Texas went even further, issuing an executive order that bans vaccine mandates even by private businesses.
But dozens of business and industry groups have requested meetings with the Labor Department and other federal officials to discuss concerns with Biden's requirements before the details are released, the Washington Post reported this week. Some groups are asking for the rules to be delayed until after the busy holiday shopping season.
Those who have requested meetings include the National Lumber and Building Material Dealers Association, the Corn Refiners Association, the U.S. Chamber of Commerce and the National Retail Federation; and companies such as Walt Disney, according to the Post.
Brnovich's press release cites an article in Engineering News-Record in which construction officials predict 40% of the workforce at large companies affected by the policy will seek employment at smaller companies that don't need to comply with the rules. His court filing notes that 20-25% of the U.S. economy is fueled by federal government spending, which is jeopardized by the Biden rules.
Brnovich argues the vaccine rules violate the Equal Protection Clause because migrants who have crossed into the United States illegally from Mexico are not required to be vaccinated. The new complaint builds on that theme, bringing up issues of asylum and parole status.
Is action tied to campaign effort?
The GOP race for the U.S. Senate seat in Arizona held by Democrat Mark Kelly includes Brnovich; utility regulator Justin Olson; Blake Masters, a top aide to billionaire entrepreneur Peter Thiel; solar power executive Jim Lamon; and Michael “Mick” McGuire, the retired adjutant general of the Arizona National Guard.
One prominent public health official said Brnovich's lawsuit is simply aimed at using the Attorney General's Office to garner media attention for his Senate race.
"It's probably mostly designed to get on FOX News," said Will Humble, executive director of the Arizona Public Health Association, in an interview following Brnovich's announcement. "He has to do it this way ... . He needs more earned media than the others."
Reach reporter Ryan Randazzo at firstname.lastname@example.org or 602-444-4331. Follow him on Twitter @UtilityReporter.