By Mimi Nguyen Ly
A federal judge in Missouri has issued a temporary hold on the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors in 10 U.S. states while litigation plays out.
“We just beat the Biden Administration in court again,” Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt announced on Twitter late Monday. “This afternoon, we obtained a preliminary injunction against the vaccine mandate on federal contractors, halting enforcement of that mandate in Missouri and the other states in our coalition.”
The preliminary injunction, issued by U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce, applies to Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Missouri, Montana, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming. Schmitt and Nebraska Attorney General Doug Peterson, both Republicans, on Oct. 29 co-led the 10 states in suing the Biden administration over the mandate, calling it “unconstitutional, unlawful, and unwise.”
“It will not harm the federal government to maintain the status quo while the courts decide the issues of the President’s authority and the implications for federalism. The Court concludes that, on balance, consideration of the harms and the public interest weigh in favor of a preliminary injunction,” reads the Monday preliminary injunction order from U.S. Magistrate Judge David Noce.
The White House did not immediately respond to a request for comment.
Mandate Currently Blocked Nationwide
A nationwide preliminary injunction is already in place blocking the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors, after a federal court in Georgia on Dec. 7 granted the injunction in a separate seven-state lawsuit led by Georgia.
The court had decided to block the mandate for the whole of the United States because a national trade organization—Associated Builders and Contractors (ABC)—was granted permission by the court to intervene in the case as a plaintiff. The states of Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia were the other plaintiffs.
“Given the breadth of ABC’s nationwide membership … limiting the relief to only those before the Court would prove unwieldy and would only cause more confusion. Thus, on the unique facts before it, the Court finds it necessary, in order to truly afford injunctive relief to the parties before it, to issue an injunction with nationwide applicability,” U.S. District Judge Stan Baker wrote in the order (pdf).
The COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees and contractors was otherwise going to take effect on Jan. 4, 2022. The deadline was initially set for Dec. 8.
Under the vaccine mandate, issued via executive order by President Joe Biden on Sept. 9, regular COVID-19 testing wouldn’t be an option, but religious or medical exemptions from vaccination may be granted.
Federal contractors that don’t comply may lose out on government contracts.
Another separate ruling on Nov. 30 blocked Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors in three states—Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.