President Joe Biden’s critics are holding on to his claim that the epidemic is “over” as they criticize the policies that have been put in place in response to the public health crisis.
Republican attorneys general in six states said Biden told “60 Minutes” last month in a Sept. 29 lawsuit challenging his plan to cancel the federal debt. public students for more than 40 million Americans. Also, a federal appeals court judge asked during oral arguments on Sept. 21 how to deal with a case challenging the federal government’s immunity for government contractors.
Activists say Biden’s statement bolsters their argument that the administration is using the pandemic to further its political agenda.
“It’s a huge game changer for all of us,” said Daniel Suhr, managing attorney at the Liberty Justice Center. The group represents groups in cases challenging the vaccination mandate for private sector workers, which was blocked by the Supreme Court in January, and the vaccination mandate for Head Start teachers, which was blocked continued by a federal judge in Louisiana in 24 states on September 21.
The government is arguing that judges should turn to its public health judgment in these and other cases and Suhr said “it’s not true if the president is saying the epidemic is over.”
During the interview, Biden said that Covid-19 is still the problem facing the US but said that the epidemic is over. Sara Rosenbaum, a professor of health law and policy at George Washington University, says he is talking about someone who is not the president.
“He didn’t say that the public health emergency is over, it’s a technical law that has to be implemented by certain officials, and that hasn’t happened,” he said. “What he’s trying to say is, living in a pandemic situation means that another American citizen is living in a pandemic situation, which has passed us by.”
However, Rosenbaum acknowledged that some courts have taken a different view.
“The court that is looking for reasons to rule against the plaintiffs in these cases will say that the president made the law and there is no reason to conclude that the president made the law,” he said. .
The White House did not respond to a request for comment. But Biden’s press secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, and his top health adviser, Anthony Fauci, sought to clarify Biden’s comments in the days that followed. Speaking at the Atlantic Conference, Fauci said Biden was saying we’re at a different point in the pandemic but his next words were “we’re still dealing with Covid.”
Courts have indicated in the past that they are sensitive to statements made by executives and employees.
In November 2021, the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans cited a retweet by White House Chief of Staff Ron Klein in its opinion on upholding its decision to ban in the management of Safety and Health that employees need in the following companies. more than 100 workers get the Covid-19 vaccine or test every week.
That tweet, sent by the MSNBC anchor, said, “OSHA making this vaxx mandate an emergency workplace safety rule is the best step for the Federal government to mandate vaccinations.”
The Justice Department is fighting in the U.S. Court of Appeals in Atlanta for the Eleventh Circuit to restore the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention’s (CDC) surveillance authority over airplanes and other mass transit. . Although Biden’s statement was not part of the legal record in that case, an attorney for the Health Freedom Defense Fund and two Florida residents challenging the authority said it helped his clients’ case. .
The president’s statement “adds to the impression that this Administration does not consider COVID-19 a serious public health threat,” Florida attorney Brant Hadaway said in an email. .
The DOJ declined to comment. In court documents, the agency argued that preventing the spread of the disease falls within the CDC’s legal powers.
“In fact, prevention is so important to the CDC’s mission that Congress went to the trouble of changing the agency’s official name to include the words ‘and Prevention,'” the DOJ said.
In addition to vaccination mandates and requirements, Biden is relying on the pandemic for other key policy issues. In August, he cited a public health crisis as justification for his plan to cancel federal student loan debt. That was supported by the DOJ’s legal opinion that the Higher Education Relief Opportunities for Students Act of 2003 gives the secretary of education the authority to provide this assistance in a national emergency.
The six states challenging the debt relief plan called Biden’s “60 Minutes” interview in their complaint to point out that the administration’s reliance on Covid-19 is “unfounded – just speculation and later correction.”
“Biden is the president of the United States,” said Robert Henneke, executive director and general counsel at the Texas Public Policy Foundation, which also has a case challenging the state’s vaccine mandate for office staff.
“His statement is a matter of national policy, because the basis for this policy of student loan forgiveness is based on the legitimacy of the Covid disaster that the president says is no longer stay, I think, it’s going to be a thing. the courts will come in.”