On Tuesday, a federal judge barred President Joe Biden’s administration from enforcing the COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors, the latest victory for Republican-led states fighting Biden’s pandemic policy.
District Court Judge R. Stan Baker of Augusta, Georgia, ruled that the mandate could not be enforced nationwide.
The order came in response to claims from several contractors and seven states – Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. This applies across the U.S. because one of the plaintiffs, Associated Builders and Contractors Inc. is a trading group whose members run businesses across the country.
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Baker said the states could succeed in their claims that Biden exceeded congressional approval when he announced the demand in September.
“The court recognizes the tragic consequences of the COVID-19 pandemic on the entire country and the world,” the judge, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote. “However, even in times of crisis, this court must uphold the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within their constitutional powers.”
A White House spokesman said the Justice Department will continue to defend the mandate.
White House spokeswoman Jen Psaki said in a briefing on Tuesday, “The reason we are proposing these requirements is because we know they work and we are confident we can legally do it across the country.”
A Kentucky federal judge also issued a preliminary ruling against the mandate last week, but it only applies to contractors in three states who have filed a joint lawsuit – Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
On Sept. 9, Biden issued an order requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to comply with workplace safety regulations developed by the federal working group. The working group then issued instructions that new, renewed or extended contracts should include a clause requiring full vaccination of employees by 18 January. This means that those who receive the two-dose vaccine must be vaccinated a second time by January 4th.
Limited exceptions are allowed for medical or religious reasons. The requirements apply to millions of employees of federal contractors, including defense companies and airlines.
“This is a major achievement in overcoming compliance barriers for the construction industry, which is facing economic challenges such as labor shortages of 430,000, rising material costs and supply chain problems,” said Ben Brubek, vice president of the construction industry group. statement.
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Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp, a Republican, said in a statement on Twitter that the decision would provide relief to workers who are “afraid to be forced to choose between vaccines and livelihoods.”
Other Republican officials also applauded the court’s decision. Alabama Gov. Kay Ivey said the mandate was “simply brutally overstated by the federal government.”
By Tuesday’s ruling, Biden’s three broad vaccine mandates affecting the private sector were suspended by the courts. Judges have already ruled that it does not apply to businesses with 100 or more employees, while another applies to medical professionals across the United States.
Separately, Biden set vaccination requirements for federal government officials and the military.
The mandates are a key part of the administration’s strategy to stop the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 788,000 Americans since last year.
Mulvihill reported from Cherry Hill, New Jersey and Lieb, Jefferson City, Missouri. Associated Press writers Josh Boak of Baltimore and Kimberly Chandler of Montgomery, Alabama, contributed to this report.