In another win for those who oppose pandemic-related overreach, a federal judge has ordered a temporary block on a Biden administration rule requiring masks to be worn by children age 2 and older and compelling vaccines for staff, contractors, and volunteers in federally funded Texas Head Start programs, as Fox News reports.
Judge James “Wesely” Hendrix noted that the Department of Health and Human Services (HHS) rule at issue “requires Head Start staff to be vaccinated and near universal masking of children and adults,” adding, “it is undisputed that an agency cannot act without congressional authorization.”
Hendrix continued, asserting that “the question here is whether Congress authorized HHS to impose these requirements,” and declared that “there is a substantial likelihood that the mandates do not fit within the Head Start Act’s authorizing text…and that the mandates are arbitrary and capricious.”
The controversy arose when the Lubbock Independent School District (LISD) and the state of Texas filed suit against the Biden administration to halt the Head Start mandates, arguing that the requirements had a detrimental impact on the program designed to serve low-income families, according to The Hill.
LISD and the state contended that the mandates could result in a mass exodus of staff from the program as well as the departure of students from the district altogether, positions that ultimately won the day in terms of securing the temporary block on implementation of the rule.
Texas Republican Attorney General Ken Paxton hailed the ruling soon after it was announced, telling Fox News, “This is a win for the children of Texas for sure, given that parents should be making these decisions, not the Biden administration.”
Paxton did not hide his delight with the decision on social media, either, tweeting on New Year’s Eve, “I just halted another illegal fed vax & mask mandate. Thanks to my suit (first of its kind in the nation), Prez Brandon is barred from using the Head Start Program to force vax & masks in TX – both of which this Admin embarrassingly admitted don’t stop Covid anyway!”
When asked if he anticipated significant backlash from pro-mandate forces within his state, Paxton declared, “I think parents are going to be glad they get to make the decision. This is a victory for freedom in America,” as Fox News added.
The ruling from Hendrix serves as a temporary halt on the Head Start mandate, and the case will continue to make its way through the court at a pivotal time when the U.S. Supreme Court is also poised to hear oral arguments in challenges to Biden administration vaccine mandates for large companies and for workers at healthcare facilities receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding.