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A federal judge blocked President Biden from implementing a coronavirus vaccine mandate for federal contractors on Tuesday, providing another setback to the administration’s push to mandate vaccines nationwide.
U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker issued a stay on the order in an Augusta, Georgia court after determining that states are likely to succeed in their claim that the Biden administration exceeded his authority when the requirement for federal contractors to be vaccinated was issued in September.
“The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe,” Baker, who was appointed by former President Donald Trump, wrote in his ruling. “However, even in times of crisis this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.”
The order came in response to a lawsuit from several contractors and seven states — Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia. It applies across the U.S. because one of those challenging the order is the trade group Associated Builders and Contractors Inc., whose members do business nationwide.
The ruling comes after another federal judge in Kentucky issued an injunction against the mandate last week that applied to federal contractors in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee after the three states sued together.
Biden issued an executive order Sept. 9 requiring federal contractors and subcontractors to comply with workplace safety guidelines developed by a federal task force. That task force subsequently issued guidelines that new, renewed, or extended contracts include a clause requiring employees to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18. That meant those receiving a two-dose vaccine must get their second shot by Jan. 4.
In addition to the mandate for federal contractors, the president’s mandate for private sector workers at companies with over 100 employees and a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers have both been put on hold by courts.
Last month, Biden’s Department of Justice said it will “vigorously defend” the guidelines laid out by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) aimed at enforcing vaccine requirements on all businesses with 100 employees after the plan was blocked by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said Tuesday that the administration remains “confident” in its ability to legally enforce the mandates across the country.
Associated Press contributed to this report