Deep Dive (Dec. 3): Oklahoma Sues Biden Admin Over Vaccine Mandate for National Guard

Just before midnight, Congress dodged a government shutdown after both chambers passed a short-term bill to extend funding through Feb. 18. Earlier in the day, some Senate Republicans demanded a separate vote to defund the Biden administration’s rule that requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing and wear face masks in the workplace. Meanwhile, Congress faces another urgent deadline. The government is approaching its nearly $29 trillion borrowing limit, which could be reached by mid-December. Failure to extend or lift the limit could trigger a default.

Oklahoma’s Attorney General John O’Connor, Gov. Kevin Stitt, and 16 members of the state’s National Guard are suing the Biden administration. They’re arguing to block the enforcement of its vaccine mandate, saying it’s unconstitutional and that the mandate is tantamount to federal overreach. According to a memo sent to military officials by U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin, unvaccinated members of the National Guard who fail to get their COVID-19 shots by the June 30, 2022, deadline will be barred from participating in drills, training, and other duties, unless they are granted an exemption in accordance with department policy. The lawsuit argues: “This vaccine mandate certainly interferes with the sovereign prerogatives of the State of Oklahoma. It undermines the laws, public policy, dignity, and interests of the State of Oklahoma in governing the field of public health, including vaccinations.”

The CDC posts a new order requiring a negative COVID-19 test for international travelers within one day of entering the United States. Starting next week, the CDC requires a negative test result one day before air travel into the country. Previously, travelers who were fully vaccinated had to have tested negative for the virus within three days of their trip. Officials say this change is out of precaution due to the Omicron variant. The CDC still has not confirmed whether current vaccines adequately protect against the latest viral mutant.

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