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Biden's Vaccine Mandates Suffer Another Blow as Appeals Court Sides with Federal Workers

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The 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals sided with federal workers late last month, ruling a preliminary injunction can remain in place preventing the Biden administration from enforcing a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

The decision came after the U.S. Supreme Court in January 2022 struck down the administration’s requirement that employers with 100 or more employees enforce a COVID-19 vaccine mandate.

Further, in December, the 5th Circuit ruled the administration does not have the authority to require federal contractors to be vaccinated.

On March 23, the 5th Circuit upheld a preliminary injunction blocking the vaccine mandate for all federal employees. It can remain in place as the case makes its way through the court system.

President Joe Biden issued an executive order in September 2021 requiring all federal employees to be vaccinated by November of that year.

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Feds for Medical Freedom — a nonprofit organization that represents more than 6,000 federal employees — sued the administration, and in January 2022 a Texas-based federal district court judge issued a nationwide preliminary injunction blocking the implementation of the mandate.

In April 2022, a three-judge panel from the 5th Circuit sided with the Biden administration, lifting the injunction.

However, after all the active judges of the 5th Circuit met en banc to review the case, they ruled 10-6 that the district court judge had been correct.

The Biden administration cited the Civil Service Reform Act to argue the courts do not have the authority to review these types of personnel actions taken by the executive branch.

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The 5th Circuit disagreed, finding the CSRA does not include the authority for Biden to issue “executive orders requiring federal employees to make irreversible medical decisions to take COVID-19 vaccines.”

“Even construing the CSRA’s language broadly, we fail to see how an employer’s medical mandate could constitute a covered personnel action,” Judge Andrew Oldham, a nominee of then-President Donald Trump, wrote in his majority opinion.

Judge Stephen Higginson, a nominee of then-President Barack Obama, wrote in the main dissenting opinion, “For the wrong reasons, our court correctly concludes that we do have jurisdiction.”

But “our court still refuses to say why the president does not have the power to regulate workplace safety for his employees,” Higginson wrote.

In addition to the demise of the employer and federal contractor vaccine mandates, in January the Department of Defense announced the end of the requirement for those serving in the military. The announcement came after Congress voted in December to rescind the mandate.

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The vaccine is still mandated for health care personnel working at facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments.

In a 5-4 decision in January 2022, the U.S. Supreme Court held the Department of Health and Human Services does have the authority to impose the mandate, because it involves how health care is provided to patients using federal dollars.

The justices noted that HHS Secretary Xavier Becerra “issued the rule after finding that vaccination of healthcare workers against COVID–19 was ‘necessary for the health and safety of individuals to whom care and services are furnished.’”

The Associated Press reported the health care worker vaccine mandate is slated to stay in place until November 2024.

The GOP-led House passed legislation in January ending the requirement, but the bill is unlikely to make it through the Democrat-controlled Senate.

A version of this article originally appeared on Patriot Project.

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