Judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

It's yet another legal challenge for the Biden administration, who required federal contractors to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022

Judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors

President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate has hit yet another roadblock.

Judge R. Stan Baker of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Georgia has issued an order that temporarily halts implementation of the mandate for federal contractors.

Baker ruled that Associated Builders and Contractors, a national trade group that challenged the president’s mandate, is on solid legal ground in its assertion that the president exceeded his authority under the Procurement Act when he issued the vaccination order. Baker called the mandate “costly, laborious and likely to result in a reduction in available members of the workforce.”

“In its practical application, (the mandate) operates as a regulation of public health. It will also have a major impact on the economy at large, as it limits contractors’ and members of the workforce’s ability to perform work on federal contracts. Accordingly, it appears to have vast economic and political significance,” Baker said.

Read more: Vaccine mandate’s legal limbo means employers should ‘proceed with caution’

In September, Biden issued an order that calls for the vaccination of federal contractors and subcontractors against COVID-19. Otherwise, employers would face the possibility of contract termination with agencies and departments of the United States government. The initial Dec. 8 deadline was later moved to Jan. 4, 2022.

All aspects of the vaccine mandate have been challenged thus far, including the requirement that workers at companies with 100 or more employees to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022, or submit to weekly coronavirus tests to confirm they don’t have the virus.

In November, the New Orleans-based U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit said it was delaying the federal requirement because of potential "grave statutory and constitutional issues" raised by the plaintiffs, CNBC reported. The three-judge panel said that the lawsuits seeking to overturn the mandates “are likely to succeed on the merits” and further criticized the requirements as “a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers).”

As a result, The Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) announced it was suspending implementation and enforcement of the mandate pending future developments in the litigation. Then, another federal judge blocked the Biden administration’s bid to enforce the rule on healthcare workers across 10 states.

St. Louis-based U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp issued a preliminary injunction that said Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) lacked the authority by Congress to execute a vaccination directive for providers included in healthcare programs for the poor, disabled and elderly. The ruling applies to 10 states: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.

“The reason that we proposed these requirements is that we know they work, and we are confident in our ability legally to make these happen across the country,” said White House press secretary Jen Psaki.

Earlier this week, New York City Mayor Bill de Blasio announced an expanded vaccination mandate for workers in the private sector that will take effect on Dec. 17.

Under the mandate, employees in the workplace with other co-workers should have their first jab by Dec. 27. The policy is set to cover about 184,000 businesses, according to a media release. There will be no regular testing options for unvaccinated employees under the new policy, according to de Blasio, but the government would give medical and religious exemptions. Judge Frank P. Nervo in the Supreme Court of New York has already blocked that mandate, Newsweek reported.

Whether these mandates will ultimately be implemented or permanently stopped will be the subject of subsequent court battles.

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