Federal judge blocks vaccine mandate for federal employees
(The Center Square) – A federal judge Friday blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine requirement for federal employees, another loss for Biden’s mandates that could set up another showdown at the U.S. Supreme Court.
Texas Judge Jeffrey Brown issued an injunction to halt the federal mandate. Brown said the case considers 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 currently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far,” he added.
The Department of Justice said it will appeal the ruling. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki seemed to echo that sentiment in her response to the ruling Friday.
"We are confident in our legal authority," she said.
The Biden administration said well over 90% of federal workers have been vaccinated. The legal resistance in this case was led by the group “Feds for Medical Freedom," a collection of federal employees and contractors standing up to the mandate.
“Thousands of these dedicated public employees have answered the call of duty and served throughout the pandemic, no matter the risk,” the group said on its website. “They believe that the government should not fire workers because of their health conditions or medically-informed health care decisions. Now is not the time to abandon well-established laws regarding workplace discrimination, informed consent to use unlicensed vaccines, and individualized assessments by employers.”
The ruling comes on the heels of another major loss for the Biden administration after its federal vaccine mandate for private sector employers with at least 100 workers was struck down. That mandate threatened employers with hefty fines if they refused.
The Supreme Court ruled in a 6-3 vote against that mandate, saying the president does not have the authority to give the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the power to implement such a widespread federal mandate.
"The question before us is not how to respond to the pandemic, but who holds the power to do so. The answer is clear: Under the law as it stands today, that power rests with the States and Congress, not OSHA," justices wrote in the majority opinion.
The high court, however, did uphold the federal vaccine mandate on health care workers at institutions receiving federal funds.
Again on Friday, a judge said Biden went too far.
"The President certainly possesses 'broad statutory authority to regulate executive branch employment policies,'" Brown wrote in his ruling. "But the Supreme Court has expressly held that a COVID-19 vaccine mandate is not an employment regulation. And that means the President was without statutory authority to issue the federal worker mandate."
The legal challengers argue this case is about fair application of the law.
“Members of the Federal community work every day to ensure the nation’s laws are applied fairly to all citizens," Feds for Medical Freedom said. “Now, they are fighting the government to ensure the law is applied fairly to all federal workers.”