Republican Gov. Tate Reeves speaks at the Neshoba County Fair in Philadelphia, Miss., Thursday, July 29, 2021. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis)

Gov. Tate Reeves proudly claimed victory on social media in the opening round of the legal fight to block President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate on private companies.

“The fight continues but this is a big first step,” Reeves said this week on social media after the courts temporarily halted the mandate.

The U.S. 5th Circuit Court of Appeals issued a temporary injunction on Nov. 6 on the mandate that companies employing more than 100 either require their workers to be vaccinated or subject to weekly testing for COVID-19. The three-judge panel cited “cause to believe there are grave constitutional and statutory issues” with the mandate.

The temporary stay means little since the vaccine mandate is not scheduled to go into effect until early January. A mask requirement that is part of the mandate and also was halted goes into effect in December.

The lawsuit, which included various states and private companies, is one of multiple lawsuits being filed to challenge the Biden mandate. Mississippi’s participation is notable in that the state leads the nation in number of COVID-19 deaths per capita and has one of the nation’s lowest vaccination rates.

READ MORE: Mississippi joins other states suing over Biden vaccine mandate

When Reeves first began bemoaning vaccine mandates, he said, “I don’t believe public sector entities have the authority to mandate vaccines. I don’t think private sector entities should mandate vaccines, but if an individual doesn’t like what their boss is doing, I guess they can go find another job.”

When it was pointed out that there are multiple vaccine mandates imposed by the state of Mississippi — like the vaccinations necessary to attend public schools — the governor eventually backtracked to say he does not believe one person, including the president, can unilaterally issue mandates.

And even last week, Mississippi House Speaker Philip Gunn was proclaiming the government could not issue vaccine mandates.

“I believe strongly the government should not force any Mississippian to take the vaccine against his or her will,” Gunn wrote to members of the House.

The speaker and governor, of course, are parts of the government — and important parts at that. Gunn, as the speaker of the House, and Reeves, first as lieutenant governor and later as governor, have had the power to influence whether Mississippi had vaccine mandates or eliminate them as many anti-vaccination advocates lobby them to do every legislative session. Thus far Gunn, Reeves and other state leaders have rejected the pleas of the anti-vaccination advocates. Whether that will change in the upcoming 2022 session remains to be seen.

READ MORE: Wicker, Hyde-Smith join other Mississippi Republicans in opposing Biden vaccine mandate

In reality, the lawsuits against the Biden vaccine mandate have nothing to do with whether the government can issue vaccine mandates. Government has been, with the blessing of the courts, doing so for decades. What is at issue in the lawsuits against Biden is whether his Department of Labor can use federal law to impose the mandate. Federal law gives the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration the authority to issue rules and regulations to ensure workplace safety. The question for the courts is whether the vaccine mandate is a proper use of that OSHA authority.

The case could likely go to the U.S. Supreme Court.

Mississippi Attorney General Lynn Fitch, who Reeves said is working closely with him on the litigation, is already asking the Supreme Court to strike previous rulings that ensured abortion rights. Oral arguments in that case will be held in December.

Last year, Fitch joined a national lawsuit to have millions of votes thrown out in an attempt to overturn the results of the 2020 presidential election. That case was summarily rejected by the U.S. Supreme Court.

In that case, Fitch and other Republican attorneys general who filed the lawsuit famously claimed that Biden “had less than one in a quadrillion to the fourth power” chance of winning the election in four key swing states.

“One in a quadrillion to the fourth power” equates to “less than one million million million million billion billion billions chance,” according to an article in Bloomberg Businessweek.

READ MORE: Attorney general argues in federal court that Jim Crow-era voting ban should be upheld

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Bobby Harrison, Mississippi Today’s senior capitol reporter, covers politics, government and the Mississippi State Legislature. He also writes a weekly news analysis which is co-published in newspapers statewide. A native of Laurel, Bobby joined our team June 2018 after working for the North Mississippi Daily Journal in Tupelo since 1984. He is president of the Mississippi Capitol Press Corps Association and works with the Mississippi State University Stennis Institute to organize press luncheons. Bobby has a bachelor's in American Studies from the University of Southern Mississippi and has received multiple awards from the Mississippi Press Association, including the Bill Minor Best Investigative/In-depth Reporting and Best Commentary Column.