Trump-appointed judges halt progress of Biden vaccine mandates

Though President Joe Biden decided earlier this year to use the coercive power of the federal government to force COVID-19 vaccination even on those who do not want it, the commander in chief has been met with significant resistance to those edicts in the courts, thanks in large part to judicial appointments made by former President Donald Trump and other Republican predecessors, as The Hill reports.

While the Biden administration perhaps anticipated smooth sailing for its authoritarian pronouncements, the rules requiring jabs for healthcare workers, federal contractors, and those working for private businesses with 100 or more employees have been bumping up against significant – and apparently promising – legal challenges across the country.

Just last week, judges in Louisiana and Missouri issued decisions halting the implementation of the administration’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services vaccine mandate for healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funds until current litigation makes its way through the system.

In November, enforcement of rules promulgated by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) requiring employees of private firms to be vaccinated was suspended in the wake of a decision from the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals, a panel considered to be among the most conservative in the country.

Since then, challenges to the OSHA rule have been consolidated in the Sixth Circuit, in which 11 of the sitting justices were Republican presidential appointees, and a mere five were tapped by Democrats, as The Hill noted.

Some legal observers are suggesting that the current – and potentially future – bumps in the road to implementation of Biden’s wishes are due in large part to the significant success Trump had in appointing judges to the federal bench during his time in office, particularly to appeals courts.

Those longing for the swift imposition of judicial imprimatur on Biden’s mandates have been notably frustrated of late, with University of Richmond law professor Carl Tobias telling The Hill, “It’s the bitter fruit of Trump. This is where you are when Trump appointed almost a third of the federal appellate bench. This is what you’re going to see for some time.”

Trump-appointed Judge Terry Doughty of the Western District of Louisiana,  however, expressed sentiments apparently shared by numerous conservative jurists when he halted the mandate for healthcare workers, writing, “There is no question that mandating a vaccine to 10.3 million healthcare workers is something that should be done by Congress, not a government agency,” adding, “It is not clear that even an Act of Congress mandating a vaccine would be constitutional.”

Considering that most legal observers assume that overarching questions about the constitutionality of federal vaccine mandates in all their forms will ultimately make their way to the U.S. Supreme Court, the successful confirmation of three conservative justices during Trump’s tenure is yet another lasting legacy of his term in office for which millions are grateful.