JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. (AP) — A federal judge in Missouri added another legal block Monday against President Joe Biden’s requirement that federal contractors receive COVID-19 vaccinations.
The new preliminary injunction prohibits enforcement of the contractors’ vaccine mandate in 10 states that collectively sued. It comes on top of a nationwide injunction issued earlier this month by a federal judge in Georgia.
Biden’s administration has tried to spur workplace vaccinations through a series of administrative orders that also affect federal employees, health care providers participating in the Medicare and Medicaid programs, and businesses with more than 100 employees. All face legal challenges.
The requirement for federal contractors stems from a September executive order issued by Biden requiring compliance with workplace safety guidelines developed by a federal task force. That task force subsequently issued guidelines requiring that new, renewed or extended contracts include a clause requiring employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18, with limited medical or religious exceptions. That meant those receiving a two-dose vaccine must get their second shot by Jan. 4.
A judge in Kentucky initially barred enforcement of the requirement only in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. A Georgia judge presiding over a separate lawsuit imposed a nationwide injunction on Dec. 7. The latest injunction — issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce in another lawsuit — applies in Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
Noce said the vaccine requirement likely exceeds the president’s power to set purchasing rules as spelled out in federal law. Federal rules for contractors typically cover such things as employees’ rights, wages and nondiscrimination policies, he said.
“The vaccine mandate would reach beyond the workplace and into the realm of public health,” Noce wrote. “The Court concludes that plaintiffs are likely to succeed on the issue of whether the mandate exceeds the scope of the power granted to the President” under federal law.
Biden’s other vaccine mandates are in various stages of enforcement.
A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals on Friday reversed a previous injunction against a Biden mandate that employers with more than 100 employees require their workers to be vaccinated or get tested weekly and wear masks. But Republican attorneys general, business associations and several conservative groups immediately appealed to the U.S. Supreme Court.
A separate requirement that health workers be vaccinated against COVID-19 is on hold in half the states due to preliminary injunctions. But Biden’s administration has asked the Supreme Court to block those lower court orders