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Fitch joins group of AGs urging Biden to delay federal contractor vaccine mandate

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Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch and 20 other attorneys general across the country are calling on President Biden to halt the implementation of his vaccine mandate for federal contractors. 

In a letter, the attorneys general raised concerns regarding the mandate that they argue “stands on shaky legal grounds” and stated their belief that the December 8th deadline is an “unworkable timeline in the midst of a supply-chain crisis.”

“I have serious concerns about the President’s federal contractor vaccine mandate and those concerns have become graver as the various task forces and agencies in the federal bureaucracy have weighed in with guidance on implementing that mandate. Forcing people to vaccinate or lose their jobs is a flawed premise – that decision belongs to each individual – and the mismanaged execution of that idea demonstrates how utterly unworkable it is as a national policy,” Fitch said.

Issued by the president in early September,  Executive Order 14042 directed federal departments and agencies to include a clause in contracts requiring all contractors and subcontractors ensure adequate COVID Safety protocols. On September 24, pursuant to the Biden Order, the Safer Federal Workforce Task Force issued guidance imposing a vaccination mandate that, according to Fitch, is more expansive than the President’s Executive Order, is internally inconsistent, and is at odds with actions taken elsewhere by the federal government.

“[W]e strongly urge you to instruct the Task Force and federal agencies to halt any efforts to implement the federal contractor mandate. All citizens – including federal contractors – have the right to make their own decision about whether to receive the COVID-19 vaccine,” wrote the Attorneys General. “At the very least, you should provide additional guidance addressing the ambiguities and inconsistencies in the mandate, ensure that guidance is applied uniformly, and allow agencies and contractors additional time to comply,” the letter states.

In Mississippi, the executive order triggered the enactment of a new IHL policy that requires employees at the state’s public universities to be vaccinated. During a board meeting Monday, it was shared that the universities stand to lose $270 million worth of federal contracts if they do not comply with the federal mandate. 

While the letter does not constitute a legal challenge, the Mississippi AG’s office is evaluating the possibility of such a challenge. Additionally, the office has stated its intention to challenge the mandate for private businesses. So far, the language of the rule, to be drafted by OSHA, has not been announced. 

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