Tennessee Attorney General Herbert Slatery put his opposition to President Joe Biden's proposed vaccine mandate in writing Thursday, sending a letter to the White House that challenged the legality of the policy.
Earlier this month, the president ordered new vaccine mandates for federal workers as well as a requirement that all employers with more than 100 workers mandate vaccination or weekly testing for their employees. The latter would reportedly apply to upwards of 80 million workers. Around 74 percent of Americans who are eligible for the vaccine — those 12 and older — have received at least one dose.
In his letter, Slatery argues that Biden's mandate does not comply with the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970 and might be unconstitutional. He also said the mandate risks "risks undermining the federalist structure of our joint government." Among other arguments, Slatery says that COVID-19 is not a "grave danger" at every workplace and thus would not meet the threshold for such action by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which Biden has tasked with enforcing the mandate.
Slatery says in the letter that his office is "still analyzing the text of the OSH Act and will consider the specific language of the [emergency temporary standard] when it becomes available to determine whether this is an appropriate standard under the Act."
Slatery also says "Tennessee has worked diligently to respond to the pandemic by balancing the need for public health with the rights of its citizens." The results of that response have Tennessee as the state with the most cases per capita since the beginning of the pandemic, although it ranks 24th in deaths per capita.
"I agree that everyone eligible for COVID-l9 vaccination should, in consultation with his or her doctor, get vaccinated," Slatery says in concluding his letter. "Over half of the Volunteer State's citizens have already received at least one COVID-l9 vaccination shot. Ultimately, however, public health decisions are best left in the hands of States, communities, businesses, and free citizens."
Slatery was not among the twenty-four state attorneys general who sent a separate and more confrontational letter to the White House Thursday. That group threatened legal action over the mandate, which they called "disastrous and counterproductive."
Prominent conservative media figures like Ben Shapiro and Dave Ramsey — who has flouted public health guidelines throughout the pandemic — have indicated their Middle Tennessee-based companies will defy the mandate on their own.