Gov. DeSantis impatient for Supreme Court to decide Biden vax mandate challenge

‘Honestly, it’s a little bit concerning,’ he says of the high court

By: - January 13, 2022 2:27 pm

Gov. Ron DeSantis appeared during a press conference on Jan. 12, 2022, In Panama City. Source: DeSantis Facebook page

Update: After the governor completed his remarks, the U.S. Supreme Court struck down the vaccine mandate for large employers but allowed the one for health-care workers. Read more here.

Gov. Ron DeSantis despaired Thursday that the U.S. Supreme Court has not yet ruled on legal challenges to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates for large businesses and health care providers — policies the governor strongly opposes.

“For the Supreme Court not to have ruled on this — honestly, it’s a little bit concerning, because this is not a very difficult … ,” DeSantis said during a press conference in Panama City, trailing off without completing the sentence.

“If you believe, like the Founding Fathers believed, that the Constitution is one of limited and enumerated powers, you cannot authorize the federal government acting with what basically is like a state police power,” he said.

“They’re saying they’re regulating business to impose a vaccine mandate because they know they couldn’t impose a vaccine mandate directly. So, this is an attempt to end run around the constitutional structure,” he said, referring to the Biden administration.

“We need the Supreme Court to come through and rule properly on that,” the governor said.

DeSantis was in Panama City to announce more than $20 million in Rebuild Florida Mitigation General Infrastructure Repair Program to repair and replace water, stormwater, and sewage lines damaged by Hurricane Michael in 2018.

The justices heard oral arguments on Friday in challenges to mandates imposed by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration and Centers for Medicaid and Medicare Services. The former applies to businesses with more than 100 employees; the latter, to medical providers accepting federal health care money.

Florida is among a raft of Republican-led states that sued to block the mandates, but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit lifted a nationwide injunction against the rules in December. Absent intervention from the Supreme Court, the mandates took effect on Monday.

The governor argues such mandates force workers who don’t want vaccines out of their jobs, exacerbating pandemic-related glitches in the industrial supply chain and a shortage of health-care workers.

The OSHA mandate allows exceptions for workers with medical or sincerely held religious reasons to forego vaccination, but they’ll have to wear face masks or undergo regular testing. State law, enacted at DeSantis’ request during a special session last year, adds an exception for people who have acquired a degree of immunity through being infected.

Press representatives for DeSantis and the Florida Department of Health have not responded to questions about what they’re hearing from businesses regarding compliance. According to published reports, employers are required to enforce mask mandates ahead of mandatory testing for the unvaccinated beginning on Feb. 9.

DeSantis made clear his intention to enforce the Florida law, including a provision that places the financial burden of testing workers claiming exemptions on employers. Should the Supreme Court allow the mandates to take effect, the federal law would trump state law, however.

“That’s Florida law. We’re going to make that that is enforced, and we’re going to make sure we’re providing protections for people so that they didn’t have their livelihoods ruined by an unconstitutional and really ham-handed federal mandate.”

As for the Supreme Court, “I’m hoping that they will get real on this. I’m surprised — I mean, I think the arguments went fine, but to not have ruled by now … (he trailed off).

“In Florida, what we said was nobody should be denied earning a living based on these jabs. That’s your choice. It’s a private choice. It is not something the government should be forcing,” he said.

“Clearly, the vax has not stopped people from being infected with omicron. That is just clear as day. And so, what is the basis for forcing somebody else to do that?”

Meanwhile, COVID-19 new cases have risen to 71,742 in Florida, based on data reported Wednesday by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). Only California had a higher caseload.

Our stories may be republished online or in print under Creative Commons license CC BY-NC-ND 4.0. We ask that you edit only for style or to shorten, provide proper attribution and link to our web site. Please see our republishing guidelines for use of photos and graphics.

Michael Moline
Michael Moline

Michael Moline has covered politics and the legal system for more than 30 years. He is a former managing editor of the San Francisco Daily Journal and former assistant managing editor of The National Law Journal.