States sue HHS to overturn public health emergency rule

Texas and Oklahoma filed suit in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas on January 18, 2023, arguing that an Obama-era federal regulation issued by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) granting the World Health Organization (WHO) authority to define what constitutes a public health emergency infringes on national and state sovereignty.

Fifteen states in July 2022 filed a petition asking HHS to repeal the rule. The Biden administration denied the petition in October 2022. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton (R), joined by Oklahoma Attorney General Gentner Drummond (R), filed suit, arguing in part that the HHS rule infringes on U.S. and state sovereignty by unlawfully delegating power to a foreign entity. Paxton argued in a press release, “Absolutely no foreign power should have the ability to exert police powers over Texas or any other state, and that is especially true for a foreign entity with as troubled of a history as the WHO.”

HHS had not responded to the lawsuit as of January 25, 2023. The agency did not respond to the July 2022 petition but stated at the time that it “will continue to make its own independent decisions” and asserted that it is “important to include references to WHO in the definition of ‘public health emergency’ to inform the public of the circumstances that HHS/CDC may consider.”

The date for oral argument in the U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Texas had not been set as of January 25, 2023.

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