A federal appeals court on Monday ruled that the Biden administration cannot enforce its planned COVID-19 vaccine mandate for employees of federal contractors.
In a 2-1 decision, a 5th Circuit Court of Appeals panel ruled that following the government’s argument would enable presidents to unilaterally impose wide-ranging mandates on contractors, only limited by an administration’s ability to tie such a measure to improving a more economical and efficient system.
“Hypothetically, the President could mandate that all employees of federal contractors reduce their BMI below a certain number on the theory that obesity is a primary contributor to unhealthiness and absenteeism,” Judge Kurt Engelhardt wrote in the ruling.
The decision in the case — filed by Louisiana, Indiana and Mississippi — marks a setback for the Biden administration, which argued the president had authority for the order under the Procurement Act.
After the guidance was issued last year, a district court last December blocked the vaccine mandate’s enforcement nationwide.
The 11th Circuit Court of Appeals in August narrowed the lower court’s injunction to only impact the parties who challenged the mandate.
But the Office of Management and Budget in October told agencies to not take any step to enforce the contractor vaccine mandate, noting that active court orders prohibit enforcement “in some locations and as to some entities.”
The Hill has reached out to the White House for comment.
Judge James Graves, who dissented from his two colleagues’ ruling, said Biden’s order was consistent with what is allowed under the Procurement Act, noting that the decision marks the first executive order issued under the law to be struck down.
“The majority conjures up the most extreme and unlikely scenarios to deny the President his authority under the Procurement Act,” Graves wrote.