Gov. Henry McMaster Leads Fight Against Vaccine Mandates on Three Fronts

November 17, 2021

Governor Henry McMaster and the state of South Carolina continue the fight against federal COVID-19 vaccine mandates with three lawsuits now filed in federal court. Over the past month, the governor and South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson have filed lawsuits that challenge the following mandates issued by the Biden Administration which impact South Carolinians: Vaccine mandates on all employees of federal contractors (Federal Contractor Mandate), the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine mandate on private employers with 100 or more employees (OSHA Mandate), and the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services’ vaccine mandate on healthcare workers (CMS Mandate).

“South Carolina is fully committed to fighting the Biden Administration’s overreach by any means necessary,” said Governor Henry McMaster. “As I have said before, the federal government forcing South Carolinians to choose between their job and a COVID-19 vaccination is unjust and unlawful, and it must be challenged. I ensure all South Carolinians that we will continue to fight to protect their rights.”


Yesterday, Attorney General Alan Wilson joined other states in filing a lawsuit challenging the Biden Administration for forcing a vaccine mandate on healthcare workers through the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS). This announcement follows a November 8, 2021 letter from Governor McMaster to Attorney General Wilson on the issue.

“Aside from the fact that the CMS Mandate is unprecedented in scope, the Biden Administration has indicated it expects to utilize and weaponize state agencies in attempting to enforce this unwarranted emergency regulation,” Governor McMaster wrote in his letter to Attorney General Wilson. Because CMS has indicated that it expects state agencies to conduct onsite compliance reviews to enforce the CMS Mandate, the Governor noted that “the Biden Administration intends to ignore the text of the Tenth Amendment, the Supreme Court’s articulation of the anti-commandeering doctrine, and the fact that the Constitution confers only limited powers on the federal government.”

Governor McMaster’s letter to Attorney General Wilson concluded that “both to preserve the system of government that has served our Nation so well for centuries and to ensure that the Biden Administration’s actions do not unlawfully and adversely impact the State of South Carolina, we must oppose this latest attempt by the Biden Administration to expand and exceed the federal government’s power.”


Governor McMaster and Attorney General Wilson previously filed a lawsuit in the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia challenging the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors.  After filing the lawsuit on October 29, 2021, Governor McMaster, the State of South Carolina, and the other plaintiffs in that lawsuit—which include the States of Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, Utah, and West Virginia, Governor Brian P. Kemp of Georgia, Governor Kay Ivey of Alabama, Governor Brad Little of Idaho, and various state agencies or entities—recently asked the federal court in Georgia to issue a preliminary injunction to prevent President Biden and his Administration from enforcing the vaccine mandate for federal contractors. The court has scheduled a hearing on the plaintiffs’ motion for December 3, 2021.


On November 5, 2021, along with the States of Louisiana, Mississippi, Texas, and Utah, Attorney General Wilson joined a lawsuit on behalf of the State of South Carolina in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit to challenge OSHA’s emergency temporary standard that seeks to require all employers with 100 or more employees ensure their workforces are fully vaccinated or show a negative COVID-19 test at least once a week. The Fifth Circuit issued an order staying the OSHA mandate the following day, explaining that the Biden Administration’s actions raised “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”  The Fifth Circuit reaffirmed its stay on Friday, November 12, 2021.

On November 4, 2021, Governor McMaster issued Executive Order 2021-38, which prohibits all state cabinet agencies from requiring employees to receive the COVID-19 vaccine. To facilitate and support the State’s efforts to challenge the Biden Administration’s vaccine mandates, the governor’s executive order also directs every agency in state government to immediately notify the Office of the Governor and the Office of the South Carolina Attorney General upon receiving any communication or directives from the Biden Administration concerning COVID-19 vaccination requirements.