A federal judge in Texas has ruled that US President Joe Biden’s directive mandating government workers to get vaccinated against COVID-19 is unconstitutional. The decision, announced on Friday, is the latest setback for the Biden administration’s efforts to increase immunization rates.
The ruling comes after the US Supreme Court halted the administration’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test rule for firms with 100 or more employees last week, which only applied to government employees.
Judge Jeffrey Brown stated Friday in a 20-page judgment and order that Biden’s executive order forcing government workers to get vaccinated goes beyond the president’s power.
“It’s about whether the president may mandate millions of federal workers to undergo a medical treatment as a condition of their employment with the stroke of a pen and without the participation of Congress,” Brown wrote. “That is a bridge too far under the existing status of the law, as recently articulated by the Supreme Court.”
In September, Biden signed executive orders ordering the executive branch of the federal government and federal contractors to get vaccinated against COVID-19. The vaccination deadline was Nov. 22.
According to CNBC, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki stated that 98 percent of government employees have already been vaccinated. However, Psaki continued, “We are confident in our legal power here.”
According to the Supreme Court’s decision last week, the initial rule for enterprises with 100 or more employees was issued by the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration. It would have covered roughly 84 million workers.
Louisiana, Texas, Utah, South Carolina, and Mississippi filed a permanent injunction against the mandate before it could take effect, and it was temporarily blocked by a federal appeals panel in Louisiana in November before being reinstated after a decision by the US Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit in Cincinnati in December.
Last Monday, the Supreme Court decided 6 to 3 to prohibit the employee requirement while voting 5 to 4 to maintain the healthcare worker mandate.
Due to the advent of the highly infectious omicron form, COVID-19 infections are quickly increasing across the United States. According to Johns Hopkins University’s COVID monitoring figures from Friday, the US has a 28-day case total of roughly 17.5 million.
The Biden administration has already appealed the ruling. A request for more information from the White House was not immediately returned.