Federal appeals court reaffirms block of Biden’s vaccine mandate: ‘grave statutory and constitutional issues’

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The U.S. Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans has reaffirmed its earlier decision to block President Biden’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate after initially staying the directive on Nov. 6, a day after the administration announced the rule.

In response to lawsuits from Texas and other GOP-led states, the appeals court on Friday ordered the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), the Labor Department agency that issued the rule, to “take no steps to implement or enforce the Mandate until further court order.”

The ruling is among the first regarding the mandate in what many legal experts believe will be a long battle over whether the mandate is constitutional.

Ken Paxton, the attorney general for Texas who has won several legal tussles against the Biden administration already and who has been a vehement critic of the mandate, took to Twitter to applaud the appeals court ruling.

“Citing Texas’s ‘compelling argument[s],’ the 5th Circuit has delayed OSHA’s unconstitutional and illegal private-business vaccine mandate. WE WON! Litigation will continue, but this is a massive victory for Texas and for FREEDOM from Biden’s tyranny and lawlessness,” he wrote.

Biden first announced the mandate during a White House address Sept. 9, which he said would apply to all federal employees and federal contractors as well as private-sector businesses with 100 or more employees. In mid-October, he announced that the Labor Department would “soon” be issuing the rule via OSHA, citing the “unacceptably high number” of Americans who were still refusing to take the vaccine for various reasons, some of them due to religious objections.

On the virus overall, Biden said that “we’re making progress.”

“Nationally, daily cases are down 47 percent and hospitalizations are down 38 percent over the past six weeks,” he added.

But, he said, “we’re in a very critical period as we work to turn the corner on COVID-19,” going on to claim that “we have to do more to vaccinate 66 million unvaccinated people in America.”

“The Labor Department is going to soon be issuing an emergency rule for companies with 100 or more employees to implement vaccination requirements,” Biden noted, adding that the “vaccination requirements should not be another issue that divides us.”

Dozens of states have lined up to challenge the rule.

Following the first 5th Circuit appeals court ruling last week, the administration appeared to suggest that businesses ignore the decision and proceed apace with implementing their mandatory vaccine and testing regimes ahead of a Jan. 4 deadline.

“People should not wait,” said White House Deputy Press Secretary Karine Jean-Pierre during a press briefing. “They should continue to move forward and make sure they’re getting their workplace vaccinated.”

Her remarks came after the court first ordered the mandate halted, ruling that “the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate.”

Attorneys general in at least 27 states have filed legal challenges to the mandate and testing requirements spread over five U.S. courts of appeal since last week. Also, the Republican National Committee has filed suit challenging the requirements in the D.C. Court of Appeals. Several businesses have also filed suit.

“It’s unclear which court will ultimately decide the case. When multiple petitions are filed in at least two courts, the cases are consolidated in one of those courts through a lottery system,” CNBC reported. “The Justice Department said in a filing Monday that the lottery is expected [to] take place on or around Nov. 16.”

In its Friday reaffirmation, the 5th Circuit ruled that the mandate “exposes [petitioners] to severe financial risk” and “threatens to decimate their workforces (and business prospects).”

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