The Biden administration’s COVID vaccine mandate on businesses with more than 100 employees was temporarily blocked on Saturday.
The three-judge panel from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit in Louisiana granted the stay in response to a joint legal challenge by businesses, religious organizations, and a number of Republican-lead states, who argued that the Biden administration overstepped its authority in issuing the mandate.
According to the order issued by the court, the panel blocked the mandate “because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate,” and suspended the mandate “pending further action by this court.”
Joe Biden has struggled to boost vaccination rates since his pause of the Johnson & Johnson vaccine caused a dramatic decline in trust in all of the available vaccines. As a result, Biden’s goal of a 70% vaccination rate by Independence Day was not met.
Earlier this year, Biden dismissed the idea that he would ever impose a vaccine mandate. “No, I don’t think it should be mandatory,” he said. “I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory. But I would do everything in my power — just like I don’t think masks have to be made mandatory nationwide — I will do everything in my power as president of the United States to encourage people to do the right thing. And when they do it, demonstrate that it matters.”
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White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki also said earlier this summer that vaccine mandates are “not the role” of the federal government. “Well, I think the question here — one, that’s not the role of the federal government,” she said on July 23, offering no exception to this assessment. “That is the role that institutions, private-sector entities, and others may take. That certainly is appropriate.”
Psaki also conceded that the federal government’s only role here was to make the vaccine available. “What our role is and what we are going to continue to do is make the vaccine available,” she said.
The Biden administration also seems to know the vaccine mandate is unconstitutional. In September, White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain retweeted a tweet that effectively endorsed using an OSHA rule as a workaround for enacting an unconstitutional federal mandate. As with the eviction moratorium before it, the Biden administration knows a federal vaccine mandate is illegal but doesn’t care.
Nevertheless, the Biden administration now insists they have the authority to issue the mandate. “The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them,” Seema Nanda, the chief legal officer for the U.S. Department of Labor, said in a statement. “We are fully prepared to defend this standard in court.”