On Friday, a federal judge in Texas blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for federal workers in yet another blow to the White House’s COVID-19 strategy that has suffered setbacks in recent weeks.
In a 6-3 ruling by the Republican-appointed justices, Supreme Court recently stopped the rule temporarily, indicating that it would likely be blocked permanently if the administration chooses to continue fighting the litigation. However, the court did allow a vaccine mandate for the millions of health care workers at facilities that receive Medicaid or Medicare funding.
Biden has pushed several different iterations of vaccine mandates in recent months, including one for large businesses, which the Supreme Court blocked, and another for healthcare workers, which it allowed to go into effect.
Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas ruled against the administration on a separate mandate generally applying to federal employees and federal contractors.
The ruling from Brown Friday is not a final ruling on the policy. It simply blocks the mandate from being enforced while the litigation is pending.
The Biden administration immediately Friday filed a notice that it plans to appeal the ruling to the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
“What is that limit? As the court has already noted, Congress appears… to have limited the President’s authority in this field to workplace conduct,” Brown wrote in his opinion. “For its part, this court will say only this: however extensive that power is, the federal-worker mandate exceeds it.”
The ruling amounted to yet another blow to the administration’s most ambitious public health measures – its work to corral the pandemic through vaccinations. It is yet another vaccine requirement that has been invalidated by the actions of Trump and other Republican appointees.
Federal workers faced discipline, including potential termination for not complying, while contractors faced the potential of losing their government contracts.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki told reporters Friday that 98 percent of federal workers were already vaccinated. “Obviously, we are confident in our legal authority here,” she said. The Department of Justice filed an appeal to the ruling.
Judge Brown also added, “It is not even about the federal government’s power, exercised properly, to mandate vaccination of its employees,” he added. “It is instead about whether the President can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment. That, under the current state of the law, as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far.”