EXCLUSIVE — As Attorney General Eric Schmitt prepares to argue against the federal coronavirus vaccine mandate for health care workers and large employers before the U.S. Supreme Court, dozens of Missouri’s Republican legislators have signed onto letters in support of his argument.
The nation’s highest court has scheduled oral arguments on Friday in the cases covering vaccine mandates for health care workers under the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) umbrella and for large employers. Appeals judges have halted the CMS mandate in many states, including Missouri.
Schmitt, who is running for U.S. Senate, has led the charge against the federal government’s vaccine mandates. His team will argue before the court against the CMS mandate but is also a part of the lawsuit against the employer mandate as well.
But ahead of the oral arguments, nearly every Republican senator and state representative signed onto letters — led by Sen. Cindy O’Laughlin and Rep. Nick Schroer — in opposition to the vaccine mandates.
“We are of the opinion that the vaccine mandate at issue is yet another blatant attack on federalism as it is aimed to alter the balance of power between the states and federal government. As a result, this will strip the states of their constitutional right and long-established ability to legislate areas of public health,” said one of the letters first provided to The Missouri Times. “It is critical for the states to maintain dominion over legislation affecting public health because such decisions often have disparate impacts on rural and urban areas that must be considered.”
“There is a reason the Missouri General Assembly has not imposed such a one-size-fits-all mandate. Our federal system entrusts such prudential decisions to the states,” the Senate letter said. “We hope that you and your able solicitors will have an opportunity to emphasize these points in your response brief and at oral argument. The Missouri Legislature applauds you for your vigilance and quick action last month, and stands behind you in your ongoing efforts to preserve access to quality health care across Missouri.”
Nearly every Republican senator (21) and more than three dozen state representatives (39) signed onto the respective letters. Congressman Sam Graves also sent support for the attorney general in his own letter.
The rule from the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) required employers with at least 100 workers to ensure they are fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.
The CMS mandate required all health care workers, clinical and non-clinical, under Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The White House had said both rules would cover about two-thirds of the country’s workforce.
“Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki has said. “At a critical moment for the nation’s health, the OSHA vaccination or testing rule ensures that employers are protecting their employees and the CMS health care vaccination requirement ensures that providers are protecting their patients. We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and DOJ will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court.”
In the past seven days, Missouri has identified more than 38,600 positive cases of COVID-19 and 21 confirmed deaths. More than 57 percent of the state’s eligible population is fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
Missouri ranks last in the nation in terms of the number of health care personnel who have completed vaccination status, according to CMS data. Only 64 percent of those workers are fully vaccinated against COVID-19.
The Missouri Legislature begins a new session Wednesday. Sens. Sandy Crawford, Lincoln Hough, and Paul Wieland were the only three Republicans who did not sign the letter.
Kaitlyn Schallhorn was the editor in chief of The Missouri Times from 2020-2022. She joined the newspaper in early 2019 after working as a reporter for Fox News in New York City.
Throughout her career, Kaitlyn has covered political campaigns across the U.S., including the 2016 presidential election, and humanitarian aid efforts in Africa and the Middle East.
She is a native of Missouri who studied journalism at Winthrop University in South Carolina. She is also an alumna of the National Journalism Center in Washington, D.C.
Contact Kaitlyn at firstname.lastname@example.org.