U.S. judge blocks Biden vaccine mandate for federal workers in latest blow to White House Covid agenda

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U.S. President Joe Biden speaks in the Eisenhower Executive Office Building in Washington, D.C., U.S., on Wednesday, Nov. 3, 2021.

Al Drago | Bloomberg | Getty Images

A U.S. judge in Texas on Friday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing an executive order requiring federal employees to be vaccinated against Covid-19.

The ruling marks the latest setback for President Joe Biden, whose efforts to boost U.S. vaccination rates through sweeping workplace safety rules have been repeatedly stymied in the courts.

Judge Jeffrey Brown, an appointee of former President Donald Trump, wrote in a 20-page order that Biden’s executive order “amounts to a presidential mandate that all federal employees consent to vaccination against COVID-19 or lose their jobs.”

“Because the President’s authority is not that broad, the court will enjoin the second order’s enforcement,” read Brown’s ruling in U.S. District Court in Galveston, Texas.

The judge cited last week’s Supreme Court opinion blocking a federal rule that would have required workers at large companies to either get vaccinated or face weekly Covid testing. At the same time, the high court voted to allow a separate vaccine mandate for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.

Brown’s ruling said it was a “bridge too far” to let the president, “with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment.”

Asked about Brown’s ruling later Friday, White House press secretary Jen Psaki noted that a “remarkable” 98% of federal workers are already vaccinated.

“We are confident in our legal authority here,” Psaki added.

This is breaking news. Please check back for updates.

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