Dec 29, 2021 - Politics & Policy

Federal court denies Oklahoma's attempt to block Pentagon vaccine mandate

Picture of Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt (R)
Photo: Chris Kleponis/Polaris/Bloomberg via Getty Images

A federal court on Tuesday denied the state of Oklahoma's lawsuit attempting to block enforcement of the Pentagon's vaccine mandate for federal employees.

Driving the news: District Judge Stephen Friot said Oklahoma's attempt was "without merit," ultimately finding that Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin — and the Biden administration — has the constitutional authority to enforce a vaccination mandate.

Catch up quick: Austin had denied the state's request to exempt Oklahoma's National Guard from the mandate, which states that Air National Guard and Army National Guard members who fail to get inoculated will be barred from drills and other duties, and won't be paid even when they're under state control.

  • Oklahoma then filed a lawsuit saying that such a mandate was unconstitutional and that some National Guard members would prefer to quit instead of getting vaccinated. The state had also asked the court to block the mandate for all federal employees, not just the National Guard.

What they're saying: "[A]dding a tenth FDA-approved vaccine to the list of nine that all service members are already required to take would hardly amount to 'an enormous and transformative expansion [of the] regulatory authority' the Secretary of Defense already possesses," Friot wrote in his opinion.

  • "And, to say no more on this point, there is nothing 'transformative' about a force protection measure first conceived and enforced by General George Washington when he required members of the Continental Army to be inoculated against smallpox," the judge added.
  • "[E]ven if we were to assume that the mandate is in some way novel in the sense contemplated by the major questions doctrine, it would be nothing more than a novel application of long-established and congressionally-granted administrative authority."
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