Regulation

Biden seeks to resume federal worker vaccine mandate

President Biden speaks about his administration's plans to combat rising gas prices in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus on Thursday, March 31, 2022.
Associated Press/Patrick Semansky
President Biden speaks about his administration’s plans to combat rising gas prices in the South Court Auditorium on the White House campus on Thursday, March 31, 2022.

The Biden administration on Monday asked a federal appeals court to clear a procedural hurdle that remained after a key legal victory last week and allow the administration to quickly resume enforcement of its COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal employees.  

The request to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit, if granted, would effectively reinstate the public health policy after it was put on hold across the country in January by a federal judge in Texas.

The latest development comes after a divided 5th Circuit panel last week reversed that January ruling by Texas-based U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, a Trump appointee, and ordered the case dismissed for lack of jurisdiction. 

The administration’s request Monday would move up the timeline for the panel’s judgment to take effect, which is currently not set to occur until May 31. 

Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers was hit with lawsuits after its implementation early last fall. The policy, which allows for religious and medical exemptions, generally requires federal employees to get vaccinated or face discipline, including termination. 

A challenge brought in December by Feds for Medical Freedom, a 6,000-member organization, led to the policy being temporarily blocked the following month. 

In its 2-1 opinion last week reversing the challenger’s win in the lower court, the appellate panel held that the Feds for Medical Freedom should have pursued internal avenues for relief prior to filing its suit. 

According to administration data from December, around 93 percent of employees had received at least one vaccination and 4 percent had sought exemptions.

The administration’s vaccination policies have faced numerous legal challenges. In January, a divided Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers but allowed a vaccine-only mandate for health providers at federally funded facilities.  

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