LAKELAND, Fla. — Florida filed a federal lawsuit Thursday that challenges moves by the Biden administration to require employees of federal contractors to provide proof of COVID-19 vaccinations by Dec. 8.
Gov. Ron DeSantis and Attorney General Ashley Moody announced the lawsuit, which was filed in U.S. district court in Tampa against several defendants, including President Joe Biden, NASA, NASA Administrator Bill Nelson, the federal Office of Management and Budget and the federal General Services Administration.
DeSantis said he hopes the lawsuit, which includes requests for preliminary and permanent injunctions, provides relief to “thousands and thousands of Floridians who find their livelihoods in jeopardy due to federal mandates.” He also pointed to the potential of further litigation.
“We’re going to do more,” DeSantis said. “We want to make sure we’re protecting people’s jobs, protecting people’s livelihoods. Tossing people aside is just not something that we can tolerate.”
Moody called the federal vaccination requirement “unlawful” and “a complete and gross overreach.”
“This is not a dictatorship. President Biden, or his handlers, do not have the ability to control everything in this country. We, as states, have rights, and our citizens have rights and freedoms,” Moody said while appearing with DeSantis at the Florida Air Museum in Lakeland.
The lawsuit is the latest chapter in a series of fights between Florida Republican leaders and the Biden administration over COVID-19 and issues such as immigration. The state, for example, is battling with the federal government in court about COVID-19 guidelines for the cruise-ship industry and immigration policies.
Also, DeSantis has called for a special legislative session in November to push back against federal vaccination mandates. DeSantis said dates for the special session should be set by the end of the week.
Agriculture Commissioner Nikki Fried, a Democrat running for governor in 2022, criticized the latest lawsuit.
“This daily dose of vitriol from DeSantis is exhausting, dangerous, and doesn’t create a job, lift up a child, or solve any of many challenges of our state,” Fried said in a Twitter post.
DeSantis, who is widely considered to be a potential Republican candidate for president in 2024, said the vaccination requirement for federal contractors will hurt Florida’s economy and continue an expansion of federal authority.
“This is not the end of it,” DeSantis said. “I think we know, they always say, ‘Oh, well, we just need to do this.’ And then they go on to the next thing. And then the next thing and the next thing. And so, it’s important for us to take a stand, not only for what’s at stake here with the folks that could be affected, but also knowing that if you don’t give resistance to this, you’re going to continue to see other things, and they’re going to absolutely do more.”
The lawsuit contends, in part, that Biden didn’t have the authority to issue the regulations. It also contends that the regulations did not go through proper administrative processes and that the “unlawful vaccine requirements seek to interfere with Florida’s employment policies and threaten Florida with economic harm and the loss of federal contracts.”
NASA and the federal General Services Administration are named because they frequently contract with agencies such as Space Florida and the Florida Department of Education.
“Because Florida’s employees are generally not required to be vaccinated, the challenged actions threaten Florida with the loss of millions of dollars in future contracting opportunities and put undue pressure on Florida to create new policies and change existing ones, each of which threatens Florida with imminent irreparable harm,” the complaint said.
The federal order requires clauses about vaccinations in government contracts. It applies to contracts “entered into, renewed, or with an option to be exercised on or after October 15,” according to the lawsuit.
“Just because you are a business that has federal contracts, it’s not right for the federal government to come in and rewrite those contracts and then try to shoehorn this in,” DeSantis said.
The regulations give companies a little more than two weeks after Dec. 8 to show compliance. They are similar to vaccination rules for federal employees.
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