Federal Vaccine Mandate Blocked Again as Appeals Court Dissolves Earlier Ruling

The vaccine mandate for federal employees will remain blocked at least until a September court hearing.

Federal Vaccine Mandate Blocked Again as Appeals Court Dissolves Earlier Ruling
People march at a vaccine mandate protest in New York City on Oct. 4, 2021. (Michael M. Santiago/Getty Images)
Gary Bai

The vaccine mandate for federal employees will remain blocked at least until a September court hearing.

A Texas appeals court is dissolving a previous decision that upheld the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate for federal employees.

On Monday, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals agreed to request a full court to rehear Feds for Medical Freedom v. Biden (pdf), effectively dissolving the court’s April decision.

This means that President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate, which he introduced via Executive Order 14043 in September 2021, will remain blocked as long as the court does not issue a decision otherwise. The court has tentatively calendared the en banc oral arguments for the week of Sept. 12.

Feds for Medical Freedom, the plaintiffs, first challenged Biden’s vaccine mandate in a district court in Texas in December 2021 and alleged that the president exceeded his authority in imposing the vaccine mandate for federal employees.

The federal judge, Justice Jeffrey Brown, sided with the plaintiffs and issued an injunction order in January to block Biden’s federal vaccine mandate, which was in effect nationwide.
“So is submitting to a COVID-19 vaccine, particularly when required as a condition of one’s employment, workplace conduct? The answer to this question became a lot clearer after the Supreme Court’s ruling earlier this month,” J. Brown said, referencing the Supreme Court’s finding in early January that Biden’s vaccine mandate for private businesses falls outside a president's powers of authority.

Government lawyers stated in the lawsuit that federal law says the president “may prescribe regulations for the conduct of employees in the executive branch,” and that the act of becoming vaccinated is “plainly conduct.”

In April, the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals overturned the lower court’s January ruling and lifted the injunction, siding with the Biden administration and allowing the mandate to be reimposed nationwide. The court once again vacated this overturn with Monday’s order.
America’s Frontline Doctors and Airline Employees for Health Freedom filed amicus briefs in June supporting the Feds for Medical Freedoms in the case.

'Progressive Disciplinary Action'

After Biden introduced the vaccine mandate last year, the administration made clear that federal workers failing to comply would face “disciplinary” consequences.

“If a federal worker fails to comply, they will go through the standard [human resources] process, which includes counseling, and face disciplinary action, face progressive disciplinary action,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said at the time.

As of Dec. 8, 2021, 92.5 percent of the 3.5 million U.S. federal employees in the country and worldwide had received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine, the White House said.

The order was subjected to criticism from health freedom groups who alleged federal overreach and was challenged in court by organizations representing federal workers, including the 700,000-member American Federation of Government Employees—the largest union representing federal workers.
“The main thrust of the argument is that the president doesn’t have the authority to issue an order like this, pursuant to the powers granted him in Article Two of the United States Constitution, and that’s the same argument that won the day in the Supreme Court regarding the 100 or more employees; the president doesn’t have that authority,” Attorney Bruce Castor Jr. of the law firm Van Der Veen, Hartshorn & Levin, who represented the union, told The Epoch Times in February.

“Instead of going through the checks and balances of congressional approval, which includes feedback from the public, the executive order cuts all that out. It just says, ‘My way or the highway.’ Certainly, the Constitution grants powers like that to the president in foreign affairs and protecting the nation from aggression from foreign powers. But he doesn’t have the authority, with a sweep of the pen, to affect the lives of millions of people, bypassing Congress,” he added.

Katabella Roberts contributed to this report.