Topeka, KS – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt yesterday asked the federal courts to reopen litigation against the Biden administration challenging its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
The filing comes after the U.S. Supreme Court on January 13 declined to temporarily block the healthcare mandate from being implemented while litigation challenging it proceeds. The healthcare mandate’s current implementation already is causing disruption in the healthcare workforce, particularly in small, rural communities.
Schmidt, together with officials from nine other states, filed a motion in the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri seeking to lift a stay of further district court proceedings. The states also filed an amended complaint alleging continuation of the federal vaccine mandate is unlawful because of changed circumstances as the Omicron variant largely replaced the Delta variant and now itself is subsiding.
The states argue that although the Biden administration knew the possibility of new virus variants, it adopted “a rigid one-size-fits-all mandate that did not account for the advent of a new dominant variant” such as Omicron, which presents a greatly reduced risk of severe health outcomes compared to Delta, and did not properly account for the disruption to healthcare services the mandate would cause in understaffed rural hospitals and nursing homes. The amended complaint further alleges that Congress could not properly delegate to CMS the authority to issue such a sweeping mandate.
Earlier this month, Schmidt sent a letter to Gov. Laura Kelly urging her to seek a waiver from CMS to exempt rural healthcare workers from the federal mandate, as has been sought by governors in other states. Schmidt said Kansas, at a minimum, should insist that the federal government expressly recognize and respect the religious and medical exemptions enacted in Kansas law when the Legislature called itself into special session last fall.
Schmidt has aggressively fought back against federal vaccine mandates since Sept. 9, 2021, when President Biden announced his “patience is wearing thin” and began ordering federal vaccine mandates. To date, Schmidt has brought legal challenges to four of the Biden mandates, and three of those four are currently blocked from implementation in Kansas by federal court orders Schmidt has obtained. The OSHA mandate for private employers was blocked by the U.S. Supreme Court, the federal contractor mandate that affects defense contractors and research universities is blocked by a federal appeals court, and the Head Start mandate that requires all staff and contractors in Head Start facilities to be vaccinated and requires toddlers age two and older to wear masks is blocked by a federal district court.
A copy of yesterday’s filing in the CMS challenge can be found at https://bit.ly/3hcKiQg.