US court blocks Joe Biden’s Covid vaccine mandate plan
At least 27 states filed lawsuits challenging the rule in several circuits
A US federal appeals court has temporarily halted the Biden administration’s vaccine requirement for businesses.
The 5th US Circuit Court of Appeals granted an emergency stay of the requirement that workers be vaccinated by January 4 or face mask requirements and weekly tests.
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the action stops Joe Biden “from moving forward with his unlawful overreach”.
“The president will not impose medical procedures on the American people without the checks and balances afforded by the constitution,” said a statement from Mr Landry, a Republican.
The law would have imposed the vaccine mandate on those working for private companies with more than 100 employees.
Seema Nanda, the US Labour Department’s top legal adviser, said the department is “confident in its legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard on vaccination and testing”.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has 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,” she said.
A spokesman for the Justice Department, Anthony Coley, said in a statement: “The OSHA emergency temporary standard is a critical tool to keep America’s workplaces safe as we fight our way out of this pandemic. The Justice Department will vigorously defend this rule in court.”
Such circuit decisions normally apply to states within a district – Mississippi, Louisiana and Texas, in this case – but Landry said the language employed by the judges gave the decision a national scope.
“This is a great victory for the American people out there. Never before has the federal government tried in a such a forceful way to get between the choices of an American citizen and their doctor. To me that’s the heart of the entire issue,” he said.
At least 27 states filed lawsuits challenging the rule in several circuits, some of which were made more conservative by the judicial appointments of former US President Donald Trump.
The Biden administration has been encouraging widespread vaccinations as the quickest way to end the pandemic that has claimed more than 750,000 lives in the United States.
The administration says it is confident that the requirement, which includes penalties of nearly 14,000 dollars (£10,370) per violation, will withstand legal challenges in part because its safety rules pre-empt state laws.
The 5th Circuit, based in New Orleans, said it was delaying the federal vaccine requirement because of potential “grave statutory and constitutional issues” raised by the plaintiffs.
The government must provide an expedited reply to the motion for a permanent injunction on Monday, followed by petitioners’ reply on Tuesday.