Attorney General Alan Wilson speaks on pending lawsuits against federal vaccine mandates

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Published: Dec. 1, 2021 at 7:29 PM EST|Updated: Dec. 1, 2021 at 7:58 PM EST
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South Carolina’s attorney general said more lawsuits could be coming if the state decides to challenge other pandemic-related actions from the Biden administration.

To this point, South Carolina has already joined other states to file three lawsuits challenging federal vaccine requirements.

In September, President Joe Biden announced a multipronged mandate, which he said was necessary to end the pandemic and which the federal government has maintained is legal to enforce.

Attorney General Alan Wilson said during a news conference Wednesday that South Carolina’s lawsuits challenging these mandates are not about fighting vaccinations or public health but about stopping government overreach.

“I can only presume that these will go to the Supreme Court, and we are totally committed,” Wilson said.

In two of the lawsuits, South Carolina and the other states suing the federal government have been successful in stopping these requirements from being enforced for now.

One lawsuit challenges a facet of the mandate that would require people who work for private companies with 100 or more employees to be vaccinated or be tested weekly. In November, a federal judge in Louisiana temporarily blocked the federal government from enforcing that requirement through OSHA. That lawsuit has been consolidated with similar suits brought by other states and will be heard in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati.

Another lawsuit challenges a vaccine mandate for workers at healthcare facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid, and on Tuesday, another judge in Louisiana temporarily blocked that requirement from being enforced nationwide, as the result of the lawsuit South Carolina and other states brought about. The 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans will hear those arguments.

Wilson said he expects those two lawsuits will be heard in early 2022, though schedules have not been set yet.

The state’s third lawsuit challenges a vaccine requirement for workers who contract with the federal government. There is no ruling on that one yet, with a hearing scheduled for Friday in Georgia.

Wilson said while local governments and private businesses could impose their own vaccine mandates, South Carolina’s lawsuits are based on the argument the federal government does not have that power.

“I will vigorously defend the right of our state to govern itself the way it sees fit, and not distant bureaucrats basically ruling through executive fiat,” he said.

While the mandates for private business employees and healthcare workers cannot be enforced right now, the attorney general noted the federal contractor requirement is still valid until a judge issues a ruling saying otherwise.

The University of South Carolina has announced plans to comply with that federal contractor vaccine mandate.

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