Biden hit with string of legal losses on vaccine mandate, as DOJ vows to 'vigorously defend' it in court
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The Biden administration has been hit with a string of legal losses over its COVID-19 vaccine mandates, with a number of federal judges across the nation halting the implementation of the rules claiming overreach by the executive branch — as the Justice Department plans to “vigorously defend” the mandates in court.
Despite the court battles, a White House official said the administration is “confident” in its authority to promote vaccine requirements.
“We know vaccination requirements work,” a White House official told Fox News. “The federal government, the country’s largest employer, has successfully implemented its requirement in a way that has boosted vaccinations and avoids any disruptions to operations.”
The official said the Biden administration’s “implementation sends the clear message to businesses, including federal contractors, that similar measures will protect their workforce, protect their customers, and protect our communities.”
President Biden waves as he walks to board Air Force One, at Andrews Air Force Base, Maryland, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021.
(AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)
“We are confident in the government’s authority to promote economy and efficiency in federal contracting through its vaccine requirement and the Department of Justice will vigorously defend it in court,” the official said.
The White House statement comes after a federal judge in Louisiana on Tuesday ruled in favor of a request from Republican state Attorney General Jeff Landry to block the Biden administration’s emergency regulation issued earlier this month requiring vaccines for nearly all health care workers in facilities funding through the Centers for Medicare or Medicaid Services.
Attorneys general in 13 other states joined Louisiana in the lawsuit.
U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana Judge Terry Doughty ruled that the Biden administration does not have the constitutional authority to go around Congress by issuing such a mandate.
Lurie Children’s hospital registered nurse Carolyn Ruyle prepares a dose of a Pfizer COVID-19 vaccine at Lurie Children’s hospital Friday, Nov. 5, 2021, in Chicago.
(AP Photo/Nam Y. Huh)
“If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands,” he wrote. “If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency.”
“During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties,” he added.
Doughty hinted that the case “will ultimately be decided by a higher court than this one,” but wrote that, nevertheless, “it is important to preserve the status quo in this case.”
“The liberty interests of the unvaccinated requires nothing less,” Doughty wrote.
Meanwhile, the decision in Louisiana comes just a day after U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp, of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri, issued a separate 32-page order on Monday blocking the Biden administration from enforcing their vaccine mandate on health care workers in 10 states.
The 10 states impacted by that ruling are those that sued the Biden administration over the rule: Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Schelp ruled the order exceeded Biden’s authority.
And both rulings on Biden’s vaccine mandate for health care workers come after the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, earlier this month, upheld a stay on a separate Biden vaccine mandate for private businesses.
The Biden administration, earlier this month, unveiled the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration COVID-19 vaccine rule, which required employers with more than 100 employees to ensure that all workers are either fully vaccinated or subject to weekly testing and mask wearing.
The mandate also hit businesses that fail to comply with fines reaching as much as $14,000 per violation with the potential for multiple citations.
After the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit upheld its stay on the mandate, the OSHA suspended the enforcement of the rule.
“The court ordered that OSHA ‘take no steps to implement or enforce’ the [Testing Emergency Temporary Standard (ETS)] ‘until further court order.’”
The agency said it “remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies.”
“OSHA is complying with the 5th Circuit’s stay,” a Department of Labor official said. “OSHA is not enforcing or implementing the reg – so they are not engaging or offering compliance assistance.”
It is unclear, at this point, if those legal battles will reach the Supreme Court.
But on Monday, the U.S. Supreme Court turned away an emergency appeal from employees of Mass General Brigham—the largest hospital system in Massachusetts—who objected to the COVID-19 vaccine on religious grounds.
Justice Stephen Breyer did not comment Monday in rejecting the request from employees for a religious exemption to the system’s vaccine requirement. Lawyers for the employees said in court papers that six have been fired, one has resigned and another was vaccinated in order to remain employed.
The employees who sued contend the requirement violates federal workplace discrimination laws.
Meanwhile, the Supreme Court currently is weighing an appeal from health care workers in New York who object on constitutional grounds to a state vaccine mandate that does not offer a religious exemption.
Last month, the justices turned away a similar appeal from Maine, over three dissenting votes.
Fox News’ Jacqui Heinrich, Jon Brown, Michael Lee, Kyle Morris and The Associated Press contributed to this report.
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