WASHINGTON — A federal judge has halted enforcement nationwide of the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers at institutions that accept Medicare or Medicaid patients.
“If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency,” wrote Judge Terry Doughty of the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana. “During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties. Because the plaintiff States have satisfied all four elements required for a preliminary injunction to issue, this Court has determined that a preliminary injunction should issue against the Government Defendants.”
The preliminary injunction in the case known as State of Louisiana et al. v. Xavier Becerra et al. is the latest twist in the court battles over vaccine mandates. On November 4, the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) issued a regulation mandating that all healthcare workers whose organizations receive funding from Medicare or Medicaid be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 by Jan. 4, 2022. The same day, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), called on business owners with 100 or more employees to require their workers to either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing by the same date.
Both rules were immediately challenged in the courts; OSHA suspended enforcement of its mandate — known as an Emergency Temporary Standard, or ETS — after a federal appeals court issued a stay on November 12 ordering it to do so. “The U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit now has jurisdiction over ETS challenges and DOL [the Department of Labor, of which OSHA is a part] has filed a motion to lift the stay,” OSHA wrote on its website. “While OSHA remains confident in its authority to protect workers in emergencies, OSHA has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of the ETS pending future developments in the litigation.”
Meanwhile, attorneys general in 10 states sued the Biden administration over the CMS mandate in a case known as State of Missouri et al. v. Joseph R. Biden Jr. On Monday, Judge Matthew Schelp of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri issued a preliminary injunction halting enforcement of that mandate, but it applied only in those 10 states. “It is true that the agency would face irreparable harm if it is unable to enforce a properly authorized and enacted regulation,” wrote Schelp (italics his). “But, as discussed above, the Court has concluded CMS likely did not enact the mandate at issue lawfully. Thus, any interest CMS may have in enforcing an unlawful rule is likely illegitimate.”
The lawsuit Judge Doughty ruled on was filed by another 14 states, but the judge expanded his ruling further. “Due to the nationwide scope of the CMS mandate, a nationwide injunction is necessary due to the need for uniformity,” Doughty wrote. “Although this Court considered limiting the injunction to the 14 plaintiff states, there are unvaccinated healthcare workers in other states who also need protection. Therefore, the scope of this injunction will be nationwide, except for the states of Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, New Hampshire, Nebraska, Wyoming, North Dakota, South Dakota,” since those states were covered by the other preliminary injunction.
Doughty concluded, “This preliminary injunction shall remain in effect pending the final resolution of this case, or until further orders from this Court, the United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, or the United States Supreme Court.” Both cases involving the CMS mandate are likely to be appealed.