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Judge issues nationwide injunction against Biden's vaccination mandate for federal contractors

A federal judge in Georgia said President Joe Biden's executive order probably exceeded his authority.
Image: Demonstrators protest outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) headquarters in Atlanta on March 13, 2021.
Demonstrators protest outside the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention headquarters in Atlanta on March 13.Dustin Chambers / Bloomberg via Getty Images file

A federal judge on Tuesday issued a nationwide injunction against a vaccine mandate for federal contractors, ruling that President Joe Biden probably exceeded his authority by imposing the requirement.

Judge R. Stan Baker, who's based in Georgia, temporarily blocked implementation of the administration after a lawsuit from numerous states and a trade group argued that letting the mandate take effect on Jan. 4 would cause "irreparable injury" to workers who could be forced out of their jobs.

The judge wrote that allowing the rule to move forward "would force Plaintiffs to comply with the mandate, requiring them to make decisions which would significantly alter their ability to perform federal contract which is critical to their operations."

The court setback is the latest in a string of rulings hampering the administration's efforts to force more people to get vaccinated against the coronavirus.

Last week, two different judges temporarily blocked separate mandates requiring millions of workers to get vaccinated against Covid-19. A federal judge in Louisiana halted the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services from enforcing its mandate for health care workers, while a federal judge in Kentucky issued an order blocking the administration from enforcing the requirement for government contractors in three states.

In early November, a federal appeals court issued a stay freezing the administration's efforts to require workers at U.S. companies with at least 100 employees be vaccinated.

The ruling by Baker, who was nominated to the court by President Donald Trump, found that the plaintiffs in his case are likely to prevail on their argument that Biden exceeded his authority with an executive order in September that set in motion the mandate.

The judge's order was based on the president's economic powers under the Procurement Act.

"While the Procurement Act explicitly and unquestionably bestows some authority upon the president, the Court is unconvinced, at this stage of litigation, that it authorized him to direct the type of actions" at issue in the case, Baker wrote. In its "practical application," the executive order "goes beyond the administration and management of procurement and contracting" and "operates as a regulation of public health."

A spokesperson for the Justice Department declined to comment on the ruling.

Asked about the judge's order on Tuesday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said the Justice Department will "vigorously defend this in court."

South Carolina Attorney General Alan Wilson, a Republican whose state is one of the plaintiffs in the case, hailed the judge's ruling.

“Abuse of power by the Biden administration has been stopped cold again. The rule of law has prevailed and liberty is protected,” Wilson said.

Almost 800,000 people across the country have died from Covid-19 since the pandemic started last year, according to the NBC News Covid tracker.