Knudsen, Montana join lawsuit against Biden’s vaccine orders

By: - November 1, 2021 5:04 pm

President-elect Joe Biden receives the second dose of the Pfizer/BioNTech COVID-19 vaccination from Chief Nurse Executive Ric Cuming at ChristianaCare Christiana Hospital on January 11, 2021 in Newark, Delaware. Biden received the second dose of the coronavirus vaccine three weeks after his first dose, received a few days before Christmas. (Photo by Alex Wong/Getty Images)

Nearly as soon as U.S. President Joe Biden announced vaccine mandates for all federal workers and contractors, the Montana Attorney General vowed to use his office to fight back, and on Friday, Austin Knudsen, along with state attorneys general from nine other states brought suit in federal court in the Eastern District of Missouri.

The lawsuit challenged the executive orders on several different constitutional levels and could have far-reaching impacts as it reports that nearly one-fifth of the U.S. workforce may be effected by the order. For example, in the lawsuit, the attorneys general argue the executive orders, which include mandates for large, private employers, are federal overreach.

The suit also points out the order would require contractors – or businesses – that work with the federal government to have all employees vaccinated, regardless if an employee is directly working on a federal contract. That means employees in different departments and different states may be required to vaccinate even if their work or tasks do not interface with the federal government.

“President Biden’s dictate attempting to force injections on employees at federally contracted businesses via executive order is illegal and a gross overreach into the lives of Montanans. Workers in our state don’t lose their rights just because their company happens to do some work for the federal government,” said Knudsen.

The crux of the legal argument is that the federal vaccination policy will “coopt states into enforcing federal policy – a policy that is unconstitutional.”

The suit also claims because the rules were proposed and adopted without public comment and because they were not published in the Federal Register that they’re improper and should be struck down.

“The contractor vaccine mandate also ostensibly preempts a recently enacted Montana statute that generally forbids employers in that state ‘to refuse employment to a person, to bar a person from employment, or to discriminate against a person in compensation or term, condition or privilege based on the person’s vaccination status,” the suit reads.

That “recently enacted” law is the controversial House Bill 702, which was passed by the 2021 Legislature and is facing challenges as to its legality.

The suit filed by the 10 states, including Montana and Wyoming, claims that the federal government’s requirement will harm states in a number of ways:

  • That Biden’s executive action will force states to enforce the federal contractor vaccine mandate.
  • That it will require states to spend more on enforcement and monitoring.
  • The order violates the Tenth Amendment that protects states from having their resources commandeered to enforce federal policy.
  • That it violates the free exercise of religion by citizens who oppose the vaccine mandates on religious grounds.
  • That it will force states to use resources to create documentation and databases of those who have received vaccinations so that they can work for the federal government.
  • “Numerous employees may be fired, retire, or quit their jobs … it will likely increase the burden on the plaintiff states’ unemployment insurance funds, and it will inflict economic disruption on the states’ economies as a whole.”
  • “[A] predictable consequence of the federal contractor vaccine mandate is that employers who are critical to the supply chain and also federal contractors will likely lose significant numbers of employees… The contractor vaccine mandate will exacerbate current supply chain issues. As a result, prices will continue to rise and cause direct injuries to plaintiff states as purchasers.”

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Darrell Ehrlick
Darrell Ehrlick

Darrell Ehrlick is the editor-in-chief of the Daily Montanan, after leading his native state’s largest paper, The Billings Gazette. He is an award-winning journalist, author, historian and teacher, whose career has taken him to North Dakota, Minnesota, Wisconsin, Utah, and Wyoming.