Kansas attorney general told panel he would challenge federal vaccine mandate
TOPEKA – Kansas Attorney General Derek Schmidt told lawmakers on Friday that he plans to take legal action to challenge President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirement for employees of federal contractors.
The Republican candidate for governor appeared by video before a meeting of the Special Committee on Government Overbreadth and the Impact of COVID-19 Mandates, which Statehouse leaders assembled in response to the President’s orders and rules offered for safe workspaces. Democrats called Friday’s meeting a “political circus” and opposed the cost of lawsuits against the federal government.
Biden issued executive orders requiring federal employees to be fully immunized by November 22 and contractors to have their employees fully immunized by December 8.
Separately, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration is preparing rules for large companies requiring their employees to be fully immunized or tested weekly. The Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services are also preparing rules for medical providers, including nursing homes and home service providers, to require vaccinations or risk losing federal funding.
The warrants allow limited exceptions based on medical conditions, disabilities or sincere religious beliefs.
Schmidt sent a letter to Biden this week questioning the “shaky legal reasons” for asking federal agencies to insist that contractors’ employees be fully immunized.
“We don’t think it works as a matter of law,” Schmidt told the legislative panel. “But I hasten to say it hasn’t been tested.”
Schmidt said he heard more concerns from Kansans about the proposed CMS rules. He said he expected to challenge those rules after they were released.
“Those most affected are the suppliers who were already on the verge of survival,” Schmidt said. “They can’t have employees, they’re hanging on by a thread, and they’re concerned that if a federal mandate forces them to do things that result in four or five more, 10, whatever the number, employees are leaving, and especially in this market, they will be in a position where they cannot continue to operate.
Wichita Republican Senator Renee Erickson and committee chair declined to answer committee members’ questions for Schmidt, saying he would be invited to return at a later date.
“Today’s political circus was a colossal waste of taxpayer money and time, so it’s no surprise to find Derek Schmidt at the center of it,” said Emma O’Brien, door – speech of the Kansas Democratic Party. “Schmidt continues to use his role as Kansas attorney general to advance his own policy, no matter how much it costs the Kansans – and has even refused to answer questions because he can’t answer for his failed case. “
Brant Laue, solicitor general of Schmidt’s office, answered questions on behalf of the attorney general. Laue said U.S. Supreme Court rulings upholding vaccine warrants, including a landmark 1905 case, predate an “explosion of individual rights” established by more recent rulings.
“How would these cases hold up today, I think, is an open question,” Laue said.
Representative John Carmichael, a Democrat from Wichita, asked Laue how much money it would cost the state to defend existing and future laws that create conflict between state and federal authority. He highlighted the state’s agreement in September to pay up to $ 1.9 million in legal fees to the American Civil Liberties Union for defending an unconstitutional restriction on voting rights.
“How much tax money are we going to spend on this, what I think are windmill games?” Carmichael said.
Laue said the attorney general’s office plans to be content with existing resources and staff.
“Could we at least agree,” Carmichael replied, “that when your lawyers take their time prosecuting murderers and rapists and instead want to fight with the federal government on supremacy clause issues, that means we have fewer legal resources in your office to prosecute crime? ”
Laue said the Solicitor General’s division is separate from the division that deals with criminal matters.
Senator Mike Thompson, a Republican from Shawnee, questioned whether an Executive Order carries the weight of law, what it does, and how an Executive Order can “trickle down” to those who do business with the federal government.
“I know there’s a question somewhere,” Thompson said. “I’m just struggling with this.”
He also repeated a disproved conspiracy theory that claims there are no authorized vials of the Pfizer vaccine currently in the United States, and falsely stated that COVID-19 vaccines are dangerous.
“I’m just pointing out that there’s so much information here that we haven’t factored into this fight,” said Thompson. “I’m just trying to find whatever we can use at the state level to fight this and give people personal freedom.”
The Kansas Department of Health and Environment has recorded 6,415 deaths from COVID-19 since the start of the pandemic, as well as more than 434,000 infections. Those figures include 70 new deaths and 1,916 new cases between Wednesday and Friday.
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention reports that 63.1% of Kansans aged 12 and over and 65.2% of adults are fully immunized.
“The modern-day Jew”
The overbreadth committee also heard testimony from “certain organizations and agencies.” Representatives from the Kansas Chamber of Commerce and the International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers in Wichita were allowed to speak, while dozens of others were limited to written testimony only.
Cornell Beard, president of the Machinists’ Union, has expressed frustration with politicians for failing to take action to prevent the implementation of the federal contractors mandate as the Dec. 8 deadline approaches.
He said he was a “big fan” of Democratic Governor Laura Kelly, who previously went on strike with union members. Now, he said, he has the ears of 20,000 voters in Wichita.
“Guess who will be my friend at election time? Said Barbe. “But she just lost me, because I didn’t see any bullshit.” And all I’m telling you is whoever is running against somebody right now, we’re voting for the opposite guy. This is what our members are saying. I beg you: do something. Classify something. We can have meetings all day.
Beard described feelings of mistrust among union members facing the consequence of withdrawing from their livelihoods because they do not want to be vaccinated. He also complained about policies that require unvaccinated employees to wear masks.
“In my opinion, this is the start of a huge problem because now we’re basically saying you’re the modern day Jew,” Beard said. “You’re going to wear this star, and you’re going to wear it, and we don’t care if you complain about it or not.”
Kansas Rabbi Moti Rieber responded on Twitter: “In case anyone wants a comment, that’s silly and deeply offensive.”
Senator Pat Pettey, of D-Kansas City, challenged Beard to explain how the state should tackle COVID-19.
“Well, whatever works,” Beard said.
Pettey asked if union members believed COVID-19 vaccines were working.
“It’s not a vaccine,” Beard said.
He claimed 15 union members died after being vaccinated. Pettey asked if he knew how many people have died from COVID-19, and Beard said he can tell him how many people have died from alcohol.
The committee also allowed testimony on Friday from Republican lawmakers, members of a leading anti-vaccine group and others opposed to the warrants. The committee did not allow comments from those with differing opinions.
Additional public testimony is scheduled for Saturday.