Federal appeals court blocks Biden vaccine mandate: ‘grave statutory and constitutional issues’

A federal appeals court on Saturday blocked the Biden administration’s mandate that large companies require their employees be either vaccinated against COVID-19 or tested every week.

The order from a three-judge panel on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit came after a majority of states, as well as a multitude of private organizations, sued the administration over the mandate.

According to a White House fact sheet, companies with 100 or more employees have until Jan. 4 “to ensure each of their workers is fully vaccinated or tests for COVID-19 on at least a weekly basis.”

The White House has insisted it has the authority to issue such a sweeping mandate.

But judges on the Fifth Court appeals court seemed to think the mandate might be legally and constitutionally dubious.

“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby STAYED pending further action by this court,” their order read.

According to Bloomberg, two of the judges on the panel were appointed by former President Donald Trump, and another was nominated by former President Ronald Reagan.

The Biden administration has until Monday at 5 p.m. to reply to the court’s order.

As The New York Times reported, the question before the court is whether the Labor Department’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration “exceeded its authority in issuing the rule and whether such a mandate would need to be passed by Congress.”

Biden administration officials pledged to defend the mandate in court.

“The OSHA emergency temporary standard is a critical tool to keep America’s workplaces safe as we fight our way out of this pandemic,” Justice Department spokesman Anthony Coley said in a statement, according to CNN. “The Justice Department will vigorously defend this rule in court.”

“The US Department of Labor is confident in its legal authority to issue the emergency temporary standard on vaccination and testing,” Solicitor of Labor Seema Nanda added. “The Occupational Safety and Health Act explicitly gives OSHA the authority to act quickly in an emergency where the agency finds that workers are subjected to a grave danger and a new standard is necessary to protect them.

But conservatives celebrated the court’s decision.

“Yesterday, I sued the Biden Admin over its unlawful OSHA vax mandate. WE WON. Just this morning, citing ‘grave statutory and constitutional issues,’ the 5th Circuit stayed the mandate,” Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton tweeted.

“The fight is not over and I will never stop resisting this Admin’s unconstitutional overreach!”