Judge Blocks Vaccine Mandate for Federal Workers

·2 min read
Reuters/Mario Anzuoni

In another setback for the Biden administration’s effort to combat the Covid-19 pandemic, a federal judge in Texas issued a nationwide injunction against President Joe Biden’s mandate that requires all federal workers to be vaccinated against the highly contagious virus.

Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown, who was appointed to the Southern District of Texas by then-President Donald Trump in 2019, said the mandate, which Biden announced in September, exceeds the president’s authority. “As the court has already noted, Congress appears … to have limited the President’s authority in this field to workplace conduct,” Brown wrote. “For its part, this court will say only this: however extensive that power is, the federal-worker mandate exceeds it.”

The ruling emerged from a lawsuit brought by Feds for Medical Freedom, a group of federal workers opposed to the vaccine mandate.

Most already vaccinated: The mandate applies to more than 3 million federal employees, as well as roughly 4 million contractors. White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that 98% of federal workers had already gotten their shots.

However, The Washington Post reports that some agencies still have significantly higher levels of unvaccinated workers. The unvaccinated rate at Veterans Affairs is 11.5%, the Post says, while it’s 17.5% at the Bureau of Prisons.

White House will seek to end injunction: The Department of Justice said it would appeal Judge Brown’s decision, and Psaki expressed confidence in the lawfulness of the Biden mandate. “Obviously, we are confident in our legal authority here,” she said.

The reaction of University of Texas law professor Steve Vladeck to the ruling was a bit more colorful, and hints at the intensity of the emotions surrounding the issue on all sides. “I’m sorry, but this is just insane,” he tweeted. “The federal government lacks the power to require its *own* employees to be vaccinated? … I don’t even know what to say anymore.”

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