A federal judge on Tuesday blocked the Covid-19 vaccine requirement for federal contractors in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee — the third time in recent weeks that President Joe Biden’s federal mandate has been blocked in some capacity in certain parts of the country.
“The question presented here is narrow. Can the president use congressionally delegated authority to manage the federal procurement of goods and services to impose vaccines on the employees of federal contractors and subcontractors?” US District Judge Gregory Frederick Van Tatenhove, a President George W. Bush appointee, in Kentucky said in the 29-page opinion. “In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no.”
The judge said the President had exceeded his authority under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act in issuing the requirement. “While the statute grants to the president great discretion, it strains credulity that Congress intended the FPASA, a procurement statute, to be the basis for promulgating a public health measure such as mandatory vaccination,” the judge said.
He also said he was “concerned that the vaccine mandate intrudes on an area that is traditionally reserved to the States.”
The judge’s opinion stressed that the case was not about whether vaccines are effective or whether the government can require them in certain circumstances. It included only a limited discussion of why the public interest in halting the mandate outweighed keeping it in force while it was more fully litigated.
“Plaintiff agencies and contractors are now having to make tough choices about whether they will choose to comply with the vaccine mandate or lose out on future federal government contracts,” the judge said.
Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who joined his counterparts in Kentucky and Tennessee in bringing the case, said in a statement after the order came down that “this is not about vaccines, it’s about the mandates.”
“The judge’s opinion clearly states that and it has been our position all along that the president cannot impose these mandates on the people,” Yost said.
While the contractor requirement was blocked in only three states, it is the latest instance of the administration’s mandate meeting resistance in court. In recent weeks, an appeals court froze a mandate that required large companies’ employees to be vaccinated or submit to regular questioning over their status. That order is now under review by a separate appeals court.
On Monday, a judge in Missouri halted a Biden vaccine requirement for certain health care workers in 10 states. The Justice Department is appealing that case to an appeals court.