Judge halts Biden vaccine mandate for federal contractors nationwide

A federal judge in Georgia on Tuesday temporarily halted the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors across the country.

The ruling by U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker, an appointee of former President TrumpDonald TrumpFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Overnight Defense & National Security — Pentagon tells Russia to stand down Billionaire GOP donor maxed out to Manchin following his Build Back Better opposition MORE, is the latest in a series of legal setbacks for President BidenJoe BidenFormer chairman of Wisconsin GOP party signals he will comply with Jan. 6 committee subpoena Romney tests positive for coronavirus Pelosi sidesteps progressives' March 1 deadline for Build Back Better MORE as his administration seeks to blunt the effects of a global pandemic that has killed more than 788,000 people in the U.S.

“The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe,” Baker wrote in a 28-page ruling. “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.”

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Baker, whose order blocks the mandate while the case plays out in court, said the challengers were likely to prevail on their claim that Biden exceeded his authority with the public health measure.

Federal contractors were facing a Jan. 18 deadline to be fully vaccinated.

Late last month, a Kentucky-based federal judge issued a narrower ruling that blocked the federal contractor mandate in Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee. Tuesday’s ruling effectively extended the freeze nationwide.

Federal courts have presented a major obstacle to the Biden administration’s pandemic response, particularly when presided over by Republican-appointed judges.

Biden’s vaccine rules for private businesses, health care workers and federal contractors have all been tied up in court challenges from Republican officials.

Updated at 2:23 p.m.