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Judge blocks Biden Covid-19 vaccination mandate for federal workers

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Judge blocks Biden Covid-19 vaccination mandate for federal workers

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A federal judge has blocked the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine requirement for federal employees, the latest legal setback for the president’s efforts to inoculate workers.

U.S. District Judge Jeffrey V. Brown in Texas said President Biden lacked the broad, unilateral power to require “all federal employees to consent to Covid-19 vaccination or lose their jobs.”

The judge’s ruling on Friday said the case was not about whether people should be vaccinated.

“Rather, it’s about whether the president can, with the stroke of a pen and without input from Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment,” Judge Brown said. , appointed by former President Donald. Trump, who is based in Galveston, wrote. “That, as the law stands, as the Supreme Court recently expressed, is a bridge too far.”

The Supreme Court last week blocked the administration’s rules on Covid-19 vaccines or testing for large private employers. The High Court, however, authorized the administration to require vaccinations for more than 10 million healthcare workers whose facilities participate in Medicare and Medicaid.

The Justice Department said it was filing an appeal. White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that 98% of federal workers are vaccinated and referred additional questions to the Justice Department. “Obviously we are confident in our legal authority here,” Ms Psaki said.

, Shelby Holliday of the WSJ examines the legal precedent of vaccination mandates. Photo illustration: David Fang (Video of 01/12/22)

“Judge Brown’s decision today is a victory for the thousands of men and women who want to serve their government without sacrificing their individual rights,” said Marcus Thornton, president of Feds for Medical Freedom, a new group anti-vaccination-mandate who challenged Mr. Biden’s executive order. Mr. Thornton works as a political officer at the State Department, according to the organization.

Mr Biden said in September that he would require federal executive branch employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19 or given a religious or medical exemption, or face dismissal.

The president also mandated the vaccination of employees of federal contractors, but those requirements were suspended in lower courts, where the case continues.

Federal agencies were preparing to punish the workers for failing to comply with the president’s order. The judge and Feds for Medical Freedom said punishment for non-compliant employees was imminent.

The Biden administration cited several laws it said authorized the president to issue the warrant to federal workers, including a law that says the president “may prescribe regulations for the conduct of executive branch employees.” He also argued that the Constitution gave the president the inherent power to set internal employment policy for the executive branch.

The administration argued that it was not the court’s role to settle the dispute, but said workers facing dismissal should first challenge any discipline through administrative channels.

Judge Brown rejected all of those arguments, saying the Biden administration did not cite any examples of a former president invoking the power to impose medical procedures on civilian federal employees.

The judge, citing recent Supreme Court rulings, said the president, without express authorization from Congress, was trying to regulate the conduct of federal employees beyond the workplace context, stretching his authority too far.

“The government has offered no answer — no principle limiting the scope of power they insist the president enjoys,” Judge Brown wrote. “For its part, this court will say only this: whatever the scope of this power, the mandate of federal workers goes beyond it.

In deciding to enforce his preliminary injunction nationwide, Judge Brown said he saw no practical way to limit the scope of his order given the broad makeup of the lead plaintiff.

Feds for Medical Freedom, he wrote, has “more than 6,000 members spanning every state and nearly every federal agency.”

Write to Jacob Gershman at jacob.gershman@wsj.com

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Judge blocks Biden Covid-19 vaccination mandate for federal workers

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