A federal judge in Georgia blocked the Biden administration's requirement that all federal contractors must receive the COVID-19 vaccine, the latest blow in a flurry of legal setbacks for the White House.
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U.S. District Judge Stan Baker of Savannah, Georgia, issued the nationwide injunction against enforcing the mandate on Tuesday. Baker, appointed by former President Donald Trump, ruled that President Joe Biden overstepped his authority when he issued the requirement for all federal contractors to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 18. State attorneys general from Georgia, Alabama, Indiana, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia filed the suit, in conjunction with the trade group Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc., which represents contractors across the United States.
"Moreover, the court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe," Baker said. "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."
Baker noted in the 28-page opinion that because Associated Builders and Contractors, Inc. represents tens of thousands of workers on federal contracts across the U.S., the mandate must be blocked nationwide, rather than just the handful of states that brought the suit.
"Georgia is now 3 for 3 in our fight against Biden’s unconstitutional vaccine mandates! This nationwide injunction for federal contractors will provide necessary relief to many Georgians who were in fear of being forced to choose between this vaccine and their livelihood," Georgia Gov. Brian Kemp said in a tweet on Tuesday.
The Biden administration has faced a series of legal barriers to enforcing mandatory vaccinations in the workplace. The requirement for contractors, which applies to roughly a quarter of the U.S. workforce, was blocked from enforcement in a Nov. 30 ruling by Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove of the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Kentucky. That injunction only applied to Kentucky, Tennessee, and Ohio, however.
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The administration also faces an uphill legal battle to enforce a vaccine mandate for all employees of companies with 100 or more people. The law was intended to be enforced by the Department of Labor's Occupational Safety and Health Administration and would have applied to about 84 million workers had it not been blocked by the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on Nov. 12.
A number of suits against the administration by GOP-led states over the OSHA law were consolidated into a single case in the 6th Circuit Court of Appeals based in Cincinnati, Ohio, a court whose bench is made up primarily of Republican presidential appointees.