North Dakota to consider suing Biden administration over vaccine mandate, Gov. Burgum says

Burgum, who called the proposal a "blatant federal overreach," joined South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in proclaiming on Twitter that his state will explore options for challenging the president's plan in court.

North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum meets with the Grand Forks Herald editorial board Thursday, May 13, 2021. Eric Hylden / Grand Forks Herald
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BISMARCK — North Dakota Gov. Doug Burgum said Friday, Sept. 10, the state will consider mounting a legal challenge to President Joe Biden's plan to mandate COVID-19 vaccinations for workers at large businesses.

Biden announced Thursday a proposal to require immunizations or weekly testing for an estimated 80 million workers at businesses with more than 100 employees. The mandate, which has not yet been formally implemented, would come through the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration, better known as OSHA.

Burgum, who called the proposal a "blatant federal overreach," joined South Dakota Gov. Kristi Noem in proclaiming on Twitter that his state will explore options for challenging the president's plan in court.

"We have reached out to the North Dakota Attorney General’s Office to discuss options for mounting a legal challenge to this mandate, which goes against everything I believe as a governor, a business owner and an American,” Burgum said in a news release. “The White House needs to be reminded that the states created the federal government, not the other way around, and we will always vigorously defend states’ rights."

Burgum spokesman Mike Nowatzki declined to comment on when a lawsuit could be filed or what legal arguments it would present.


The Republican governor has been outspoken in his advocacy for the vaccine as the "best tool for preserving hospital capacity and ensuring access to care," though he has maintained that getting the shot should be a choice for North Dakotans.

Biden said Republican-led states that have threatened lawsuits can "have at it" during a Friday NEWS conference. The Democratic president added that he's disappointed some GOP governors have been "so cavalier with the health of their communities."

North Dakota's all-Republican congressional delegation also condemned Biden's proposal on Friday.

Rep. Kelly Armstrong said on Twitter "instead of making people more comfortable with getting the vaccine, (Biden's plan) is making people angry."

Sen. John Hoeven said North Dakotans should be able to make medical decisions in consultation with health care providers rather than the federal government issuing "one-size-fits-all mandates."

Sen. Kevin Cramer said Biden is "stretching the limit of his legal authority" in an attempt to shift the conversation away from the foreign policy and economic failures of his administration.

Biden also announced Thursday that all hospitals and other health care facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding will be required to mandate vaccinations for staff. Nearly all of North Dakota's major hospital systems, including Sanford and Essentia, have already declared they will mandate immunizations starting later this year.

Prior to Thursday, the Biden administration had proposed mandatory vaccinations only for staff at nursing homes — a move opposed by the North Dakota Long Term Care Association out of fear the requirement would drive workers to quit.


Long-term care resident Chris Larson, who chairs the state's Reuniting Residents and Families Task Force, said the industry is relieved Biden extended the vaccine mandate from just nursing home workers to nearly all health care workers. Now, long-term care is on "a level playing field" and unlikely to lose employees to hospitals that weren't requiring vaccination, Larson said in a news release.

Jeremy Turley is a Bismarck-based reporter for Forum News Service, which provides news coverage to publications owned by Forum Communications Company.
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