Nov 14, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Texas AG justifies supporting state vaccine ban, opposing federal mandate

Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton on "Fox News Sunday" struggled to address the contradictory nature of his stance on COVID-related mandates.

Driving the news: Texas filed a lawsuit against the Biden administration last month over its vaccine mandate for federal contractors, calling it "a dramatic infringement upon individual liberties."

Paxton argued during an interview with Newsmax last week that companies should "take care of their own businesses — take care of their own workers."

Yes, but: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott has signed legislation barring local governments and businesses from implementing measures aimed at mitigating the spread of the virus. A federal judge last week struck down the state's ban on mask mandates in schools.

What he's saying: Pressed by host Chris Wallace on whether banning mandates is consistent with the view that companies should have authority over their own workers, Paxton argued that "states have more authority over these areas than the federal government."

Wallace: You said that you think that Texas companies should take care of their own workers. Is that consistent with the governor’s executive order, and your enforcement of that order, which bans companies from taking care of their own workers as they see fit?
Paxton: What I was trying to say [to Newsmax] is that the president doesn’t have the authority to force companies. ... What I’m saying to these companies is you don't have to listen to him because he's out there saying now that you should do it anyway, despite the fact that we have a stay from a higher court.
Wallace: But you said that businesses should take care of their own workers, and the governor is saying they can't take care of their workers as they see fit. They’re prohibited from deciding, if they so choose, to issue a vaccine mandate. That's not consistent.
Paxton: We’re dealing with different types of requirements here. We've got state government requirements. ... What I would say is that they should consider their employees because we’re in a situation right now with our economy, where we can’t afford to lose transportation employees and health care workers or law enforcement officers. That's happening all over the country. I think it's going to have a negative impact on our economy and our ability to help people.
Wallace: But I want to go through this one more time. You’re saying they should have the authority and the ability to decide what their workers should do. The governor's executive order prohibits them from deciding what they want to do. He bans vaccine mandates. Isn't a mandate by the federal government — are you saying there is a difference between a mandate to get a vaccine from the federal government, is different, in terms of the ability to take care of their own, from a state mandate not to have vaccine mandates?
Paxton: I think your question is confusing but yes, the federal government has no authority to do this. Right now we have OSHA guidelines that have not been authorized by Congress … The governor has a different authority under state law that the legislature has given him and he's operating under that state law.

Go deeper: Texas Gov. Greg Abbott bans COVID-19 vaccine mandates by any entity

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