A federal court in Louisiana has blocked the Biden administration’s mandate that millions of workers get vaccinated against Covid-19 or be tested weekly, ruling in a suit filed by several states, companies and conservative religious groups.
“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the Mandate, the Mandate is hereby STAYED pending further action by this court,” a panel of judges for the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled on Saturday.
The states of Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah are among the plaintiffs.
More than two dozen states have filed multiple legal challenges in federal court against the Biden administration’s vaccinate-or-test mandate for private businesses, arguing that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration doesn’t have the authority to issue the requirements.
The four lawsuits were filed by groups of 26 states in the 8th Circuit, 11th Circuit, 6th Circuit and 5th Circuit over the past few days. They seek to nullify an emergency rule released Thursday that requires companies with more than 100 employees to verify their workers are vaccinated or have unvaccinated workers wear masks and submit to weekly Covid-19 testing.
The small business group Job Creators Network, as well as the Republican National Committee, have also said they plan to file lawsuits.
The suit led by Florida, Georgia and Alabama in the 11th Circuit also argues the requirements conflict with the First Amendment and the Religious Freedom Restoration Act.
“This unlawful mandate is yet another example of the Biden administration’s complete disregard for the Constitutional rights afforded to our state and our citizens,” said Georgia Attorney General Chris Carr in a statement. “The federal government has no authority to force healthcare decisions on Georgia’s companies and its employees under the guise of workplace safety. We are fighting back against this unprecedented abuse of power to stop this mandate before it causes irreparable harm to our state and its economy.”
The court gave the government until 5 p.m. Monday to respond to the plaintiffs’ request for a permanent injunction.
In a statement, Justice Dept. spokesman Anthoney Colley said: “The OSHA emergency temporary standard is a critical tool to keep America’s workplaces safe as we fight our way out of this pandemic. The Justice Department will vigorously defend this rule in court.”
The White House referred comment to the Department of Labor.
Sen. Ben Sasse called vaccine mandates like the Biden administration’s “unconstitutional slop” in a statement following the decision, saying the “Fifth Circuit got this one right.”
“The vaccines themselves are miracles of modern medicine and American ingenuity,” the Nebraska Republican said. “But we’re not going to beat this awful virus with extreme partisanship or unconstitutional executive orders. The OSHA mandate is unconstitutional, and at the end of the day will only increase vaccine hesitancy. The President should take a long look at this decision and reverse course before the courts embarrass him again.”