Orignally published on 2022-01-21 21:54:33 by www.huffpost.com
A federal judge in Texas temporarily blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its vaccine mandate for federal employees on Friday, calling the requirement “a bridge too far” in light of recent actions by the Supreme Court.
The ruling marks another judicial setback for the White House, which saw a separate vaccine-or-test rule halted by the Supreme Court last week. That rule, issued through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, would apply to large employers across the country.
In granting an injunction against the rule for federal workers, Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown, of the U.S. District Court for the Southern District of Texas, wrote the case is “not about whether folks should get vaccinated against COVID-19,” or even about “federal power.”
“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,” he wrote.
Brown said the plaintiffs who oppose Biden’s rule were likely to prevail in court, pointing to the Supreme Court’s decision in the OSHA case. The OSHA rule would require employers with at least 100 workers to implement programs in which workers either show proof of vaccination or undergo weekly testing for COVID-19.
The injunction issued Friday prevents the administration from trying to enforce the rule for federal employees nationwide while more litigation plays out. But the vast majority of workers are already in compliance with it, the Biden administration said.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that 98% of the federal workforce has been vaccinated, a figure she called “remarkable.” Psaki noted that the White House disagreed with Brown’s order, saying “we are confident in our legal authority here.”
Biden had issued the rule for federal workers in September. The judge issued the order blocking it on Jan. 21, the same day the government said it could start disciplining workers who weren’t in compliance.
The lawsuit against the rule for the federal workforce was brought by Feds for Medical Freedom, a group of federal employees who oppose the mandate, and AFGE Local 918, a labor union that represents workers inside the Department of Homeland Security.
In his order, Brown noted that the Supreme Court’s conservative majority ruled in its OSHA decision that COVID-19 was not an occupational health risk but a “universal” one, “no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases.”
That assertion outraged occupational safety advocates and backers of the OSHA rule, considering the massive outbreaks that have occurred in meatpacking facilities and other workplaces.
On the same day justices ruled against the Biden administration in the OSHA case, they declined to block a different vaccine rule issued by the White House. That rule requires that workers at medical facilities that accept Medicare and Medicaid funding get vaccinated against COVID-19.