Judge denies request for injunction to block provision in Biden-backed COVID relief package

A federal judge just gave the Biden administration a legal victory — but it might turn out to be only temporary.

The Hill reports that a federal judge has killed an effort by Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R) to land a preliminary injunction blocking the federal government from enforcing a provision in the $1.9 trillion coronavirus spending package passed under President Joe Biden earlier this year.

Fighting back

The provision at issue in the case is included as part of the so-called American Rescue Plan, which passed along party lines back in March and gave most Americans $1,400 in direct stimulus checks, according to CBS News. This particular provision, Republicans say, forbids states from using federal aid received as part of the package to offset future tax cuts.

Shortly after the bill was signed into law by Biden, Yost and other GOP attorneys general wrote a letter to Treasury Secretary Janet Yellen asking for the provision, which they called “an unprecedented and unconstitutional intrusion” on states’ rights, to be explained in greater detail.

“Absent a more sensible interpretation from your department, this provision would amount to an unprecedented and unconstitutional intrusion on the separate sovereignty of the State through federal usurpation of essentially one half of the State’s fiscal ledgers,” they said, according to The Hill.

“Indeed, such federal usurpation of state tax policy would represent the greatest attempted invasion of state sovereignty by Congress in the history of our Republic,” the AGs added.

Yellen, for her part, responded to the letter last week with a memo indicating that a state would be in violation of the rule if it “could not identify sufficient funds from sources other than the Fiscal Recovery Funds to offset the reduction in net tax revenue.”

Overcoming hurdles

In their suit, Yost and those backing him asked the court to issue a preliminary injunction blocking the provision from going into effect, and requested declaratory relief stating that the state of Ohio retains the authority to manage its own tax policy under the 10th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution, as The Hill reported.

However, District Court Judge Douglas Cole ruled Wednesday that while Yost may ultimately win his suit, issuing an injunction at this time would have little to no effect in curbing the consequences of the legislation.

“The bottom line is this — a preliminary injunction that stands no meaningful prospect of ever being enforced, as the [Treasury] Secretary is unlikely to be in a position to recoup funds while this suit is pending, adds nothing by way of clarity,” Cole, who was appointed by then-President Donald Trump, wrote Wednesday, according to The Hill.

But while the decision may mark a short-term setback for supporters of states’ rights, Yost is not backing down.

“The trial court here agreed with our core argument: the federal government does not have the right to tell the states what to do with its tax policy,” the Ohio AG said, as The Hill reported. “Imagine if a conservative federal government required states to reduce taxes as a condition for receiving emergency funding. We look forward to a final judgment.”

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