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Judge Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers

January 21, 2022 by Dan McCue
Judge Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers
(Photo via Wikimedia Commons)

GALVESTON, Texas — A federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction on Friday blocking the Biden administration from requiring that federal workers be vaccinated against the coronavirus.

But the ruling by U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown is expected to have little impact. As of Friday, White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said 98% of federal workers have either gotten their shots or opted out through medical or religious exemptions.

President Biden announced the vaccine requirement for the more than 3.5 million who work for the federal government in September.

“The health and safety of the federal workforce, and the health and safety of members of the public with whom they interact, are foundational to the efficiency of the civil service,” the president said in the executive order he signed on Sept. 9, 2021. 

“I have determined that ensuring the health and safety of the federal workforce and the efficiency of the civil service requires immediate action to protect the federal workforce and individuals interacting with the federal workforce,” he said.

The president also signed a second order the same evening extending the requirement to federal contractors.

“If you want to work with the federal government and do business with us, get vaccinated,” Biden said. “If you want to do business with the federal government, vaccinate your workforce.”

By the time the deadline for federal workers to be vaccinated arrived, on Nov. 22, 2021, the White House said more than 95% of the federal workforce was in compliance with the order.

On Friday, Judge Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by then-President Donald Trump in 2019, said an injunction was appropriate because he believed the opponents of the mandate for federal employees — a group called Feds for Medical Freedom — were likely to succeed at trial.

The question, Judge Brown wrote in his 20-page ruling, “is … 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.”

At the White House, spokeswoman Psaki said any decision about next steps in the litigation will come from the Justice Department.

“We are confident in our legal authority,” she said.

Last week, the Supreme Court handed down a mixed pair of rulings on vaccine mandates. On the one hand, it told the White House it couldn’t impose a vaccine-or-testing mandate on large employers.

At the same time, however, the court allowed a more modest mandate, requiring health care workers at facilities receiving federal money to be vaccinated, to go into effect.

Dan can be reached at dan@thewellnews.com and at https://twitter.com/DanMcCue

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