Ruling that the Biden administration exceeded its constitutional authority, a federal judge in Georgia on Tuesday blocked the president’s remaining COVID-19 vaccine mandates for businesses, which requires that millions of employees of federal contractors be inoculated.
Republican South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, who joined the lawsuit, said in a statement, “Abuse of power by the Biden administration has been stopped cold again.”
Reuters reported U.S. District Judge Stan Baker in Savannah argued Congress did not clearly authorize Biden to impose a requirement that will have “vast economic and political significance.”
Already, a federal appeals court in New Orleans has halted Biden’s requirement that businesses with at least 100 employees get workers vaccinated or have them tested weekly. Last week, a court blocked a requirement that most health-care workers get vaccinated. However, the Biden administration’s requirement for military and civilian government employees has survived court challenges.
The states of Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia have joined in the federal-contractor lawsuit along with a trade group for building contractors.
Federal contractors, according to the Biden administration rule, must ensure their employees are fully vaccinated by Jan. 18.
Last month, the Fifth Circuit Court in New Orleans ordered a pause on Biden’s vaccine mandate for companies with 100 or more employees. The Justice Department has filed a motion with the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, the appeals court now designated to handle challenges to the private-company mandate.
The DOJ argued the mandate reflects the agency’s “judgment that these measures are necessary to mitigate COVID-19 transmission in the workplace, and the grievous harms the virus inflicts on workers.”
Lawsuits against the order filed by a number of Republican-led states, employers, unions and private organizations contend the rule is an unconstitutional government overreach in the private sector. Workers, according to the mandate, must get vaccinated by Jan. 4 or be tested weekly at their own cost and wear a mask at work.
Employers face fines of up to $13,653 per violation or $136,532 for repeat offenders or those determined to be intentionally flouting the rule.
An estimated 84 million workers at businesses with 100 or more employees are affected.
At the Fifth Circuit, Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote that he had “grave” concerns that the rule is constitutional.
“The mandate is staggeringly overbroad, he wrote in the majority opinion. “The mandate is a one-size-fits-all sledgehammer that makes hardly any attempt to account for differences in workplaces (and workers).”
The Justice Department has vowed to “vigorously defend” the mandate.
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