“Does the administration consider this latest vaccine mandate for private sector companies to be a workaround for the federal government to require vaccines?” Psaki was asked in a White House press briefing Friday.
“This is a tool and a step that we have legal authority for,” Psaki responded. “But no, we don’t have the ability to tell every American you have to be vaccinated. There’s a means of encouraging it, of mandating it through certain pathways, and that’s exactly what we’ve done.”
The administration, and Psaki on Friday, has sought to characterize the workplace requirement as a health regulation that falls under the purview of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration. Critics have characterized it as an unconstitutional unilateral federal mandate masquerading as a health provision.
Psaki’s comment comes after White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain was slammed for retweeting MSNBC’s Stephanie Ruhle’s description of Biden’s employer vaccine mandate as a “workaround.”
“OSHA doing this vaxx mandate as an emergency workplace safety rule is the ultimate work-around for the Federal govt to require vaccinations,” the tweet said.
Constitutional scholar Jonathan Turley called the retweet “breathtakingly daft.”
“The retweet was breathtakingly daft on the eve of litigation over the order, Turley said. “It is reminiscent of President Biden admitting that his own White House counsel and their preferred legal experts all said that the eviction moratorium extension was likely unconstitutional.”
“Courts will now be asked to ignore the admission and uphold a self-admitted evasion of constitutional limits,” Turley added
The Biden administration has faced criticism from conservatives and Republican governors for the vaccine mandate on employers.
Psaki was asked multiple times during the press conference about the legality of the mandate, which the administration says is rooted in a 1970 OSHA law.
“Congress passed a law in 1970,” Psaki said. “The Occupational Safety and Health Act…requires the Department of Labor, take action when it finds grave risk to workers. Certainly, a pandemic…qualifies as grave risk.”
When pressed another time, Psaki insisted that the mandate was vetted by legal experts and scoffed that it “doesn’t even take a legal degree” to understand that the mandate is legal.