Updated Dec 1, 2021 - Health

2 federal judges temporarily block Biden vaccine mandates

Photo of Joe Biden speaking from a podium
President Biden delivers remarks on the Omicron COVID-19 variant at the White House on Nov. 29. Photo: Anna Moneymaker via Getty Images

The Biden administration was temporarily blocked from enforcing COVID-19 vaccine mandates for millions of workers by federal judges in two states on Tuesday.

The big picture: The orders, by federal judges in Kentucky and Louisiana, come one day after a federal judge in Missouri halted the mandate, which has a Jan. 4 deadline, in 10 states.

  • The preliminary injunction of U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Monroe, Louisiana, temporarily prevents the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services from enforcing its vaccine mandate for health care workers until legal challenges have concluded.
  • The ruling in the case brought by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry (R) and joined by attorneys general in 13 other states, applies in all states except for the 10 already affected by the Missouri order.

Meanwhile, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove issued a similar ruling in Frankfort, Kentucky, which temporarily prevents the enforcement of a vaccine mandate clause in new government contracts, per Reuters.

  • This ruling affects the states of Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee, which challenged the requirement in a lawsuit.

What they're saying: Doughty wrote in Tuesday's opinion that the Biden administration does not have the authority to bypass Congress in this case.

  • "If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands," he wrote.
  • "If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency."
  • "During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties," he added.

What to watch: An appeal of Doughty's ruling would head to the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans, which affirmed a lower court decision to block President Biden's vaccine mandate for businesses with more than 100 workers.

  • The Justice Department declined to comment.

Editor's note: This article has been updated to include details of the Kentucky ruling.

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