Federal judge blocks Biden's vaccine mandate for government contractors in three states

The preliminary injunction will apply to Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Hannah Nightingale Washington DC

A federal judge in Kentucky on Tuesday issued a preliminary injunction against Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for government contractors and subcontractors in three states, effectively blocking the implementation of the mandate in those states.

US District Judge Gregory F. Van Tatenhove issued the opinion and order on Tuesday afternoon, which arrived in response to a number of other state attorney generals challenging the mandate and a challenge from Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron, according to the Lexington Herald-Leader.

"This is not a case about whether vaccines are effective. They are," Van Tatenhove, who serves the Eastern District of Kentucky, wrote. "Nor is this a case about whether the government, at some level, and in some circumstances, can require citizens to obtain vaccines. It can."

Van Tatenhove said the question before him was a narrow one, whether Biden had the authority or not to impose vaccine mandates on employees of government contractors and subcontractors. "In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no," Van Tatenhove wrote.

"Van Tatenhove noted in the order that over $10.2 billion worth of federal contracts was performed in Kentucky in 2020. That figure was roughly the same in Tennessee and amounted to more than $8.9 billion in Ohio," wrote the Herald-Leader. The preliminary injunction will apply to Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee.

Van Tatenhove wrote that "even for a good cause," Biden could not go beyond his congressionally appointed authority to implement a procurement statue to justify the mandate.

"It strains credulity that Congress intended… a procurement statute to be the basis for promulgating a public health measure such as mandatory vaccination," Van Tatenhove wrote. "If a vaccination mandate has a close enough nexus to economy and efficiency in federal procurement, then the statute could be used to enact virtually any measure at the president's whim under the guise of economy and efficiency."

"These questions will not be finally resolved in the shadows," Van Tatenhove wrote. "Instead, the consideration will continue with the benefit of full briefing and appellate review. But right now, the enforcement of the contract provisions in this case must be paused."

According to Bloomberg Law, Biden's mandate would apply to roughly one quarter of the US workforce, affecting companies like Alphabet Inc.'s Google, Lockheed Martin, General Motors, and Microsoft.

Van Tatenhove argued that if the COVID-19 vaccination mandate had a close enough connection to economy and efficiency in federal procurement, that statute could be used to enact nearly any measure a president desires under the guise of economy and efficiency.

"Although Congress used its power to delegate procurement authority to the president to promote economy and efficiency federal contracting, this power has its limits," he wrote.


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