A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the last of the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandates for businesses, saying the government exceeded its authority with a requirement that millions of employees of federal contractors be inoculated.
The ruling was the latest setback for President Joe Biden, who announced a series of measures in September aimed at increasing vaccination rates to fight the pandemic that continues to kill more than 1,000 Americans daily.
With Tuesday’s ruling, all three of Biden’s broad vaccine mandates affecting the private sector have been put on hold by courts.
Judges already issued a stay regarding one that applies to businesses with 100 or more employees, and another for a vaccine mandate targeting health care workers across the U.S.
Stan Baker, a 44-year-old judge sitting in Savannah, Georgia, on Tuesday ruled that Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors was unlawful
Joe Biden is seen on Tuesday in Washington DC, arriving with his wife Jill to place a wreath and pay their respects while visiting the World War II Memorial on the 80th anniversary of the attack on Pearl Harbor
Sandra Lindsay, left, a nurse at Long Island Jewish Medical Center, is inoculated with the COVID-19 vaccine by Dr. Michelle Chester on December 14, 2020 – the first person to be vaccinated in the United States
Yves Duroseau, MD, chair of emergency medicine at Lenox Hill Hospital volunteers to be the second person to receive the COVID-19 vaccination, on December 14, 2020
‘Abuse of power by the Biden administration has been stopped cold again,’ said Alan Wilson, a Republican who serves as South Carolina’s attorney general.
U.S. District Judge Stan Baker in Savannah, Georgia, said Congress did not clearly authorize the president to use procurement to impose a vaccine requirement on contractors that will have ‘vast economic and political significance.’
He ruled that Executive Order 14042 – which on September 9 brought in the mandate for federal contractors – was not lawful.
‘The Court finds that Plaintiffs have a likelihood of proving that Congress, through the language it used, did not clearly authorize the President to issue the kind of mandate contained in EO 14042, as EO 14042 goes far beyond addressing administrative and management issues in order to promote efficiency and economy in procurement and contracting, and instead, in application, works as a regulation of public health, which is not clearly authorized under the Procurement Act 9,’ wrote Baker in his ruling.
‘While the Procurement Act explicitly and unquestionably bestows some authority upon the President, the Court is unconvinced, at this stage of the litigation, that it authorized him to direct the type of actions by agencies that are contained in EO 14042.’
The lawsuit was filed by the states of Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia as well as a trade group for building contractors.
The rule required contractors to have employees fully vaccinated by January 18.
Biden’s executive order applied to newly awarded contracts, although the government has been asking suppliers to agree to amend existing contracts to insert the vaccine requirement.
The contractor requirement was meant to improve efficiency among government suppliers by reducing outbreaks and was far-reaching, applying even to those working remotely.
Tuesday’s ruling by Baker, an appointee of President Donald Trump, shut down temporarily the last remaining business mandates that Biden had announced, as courts have found the government overstepped its authority in imposing the rules.
Those mandates were challenged by Republican governors, business associations and conservative civil liberty groups.
The litigation will likely continue for months and could revive the rules, which covered nearly 100 million workers, although some 83 per cent of U.S. adults have received at least one shot, according to government data.
A federal appeals court in New Orleans last month shut down a requirement that businesses with at least 100 employees get workers vaccinated or have them tested weekly.
A requirement that most healthcare workers get vaccinated was blocked last week.
The pandemic has killed more than 780,000 Americans and slowed economic growth and snarled supply chains.
Mandatory vaccination has become an increasingly popular tool in fighting the pandemic and has boosted U.S. vaccination rates.
Although the Biden administration’s plans have been frustrated in court, judges have upheld mandates by private employers, universities and state and local governments.
The Biden administration’s requirement for military and civilian government employees survived court challenges.