Sixth Circuit appeals panel upholds ruling against Biden federal contractor vaccine mandate

 January 13, 2023

Yet another federal court just smacked down President Joe Biden's controversial COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors, Fox News reported.

On Thursday, a three-judge panel of the Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals upheld a lower district court's ruling that Biden's mandate was unconstitutional and affirmed the preliminary injunction that had been issued, albeit in a modified and more narrowly applied form.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals reached a similar conclusion in December, in a separate case, with regard to the unlawfulness of the president's federal contractor vaccine mandate.

Biden's order challenged

It was in September 2021 that President Biden, by way of an executive order that cited authority from the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949, more commonly known as the Procurement Act, mandated that all new and renewed federal contracts contain a provision that required all contractors, subcontractors, and all of their employees, to be fully vaccinated in order to do business with the federal government.

Plaintiffs in Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee filed suit to challenge that mandate and, in November 2021, a district judge in Kentucky ruled that Biden's mandate was unconstitutional and issued a preliminary injunction to block enforcement of the mandate entirely in the three plaintiff states.

The Biden administration then appealed that lower court ruling to the Sixth Circuit and the appeals court panel heard arguments in July 2022 from both sides of the dispute about whether or not the president had exceeded his authority in issuing that mandate for all current and would-be federal contractors.

President exceeded his authority

In a 17-page ruling, U.S. Circuit Judge Joan Larsen, joined by Judges Eugene Siler and David McKeague, ruled that President Biden did not have the authority to impose a vaccine mandate on all federal contractors and their employees, at least with regard to the Procurement Act.

"The President has claimed no inherent constitutional power here; instead, he maintains that the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949 authorized his order," Judge Larsen wrote. "The district court and a motions panel of this court concluded that the President likely exceeded his powers under that Act. We agree."

"We therefore affirm the district court’s decision to preliminarily enjoin the federal government from enforcing the mandate, but we modify the scope of the injunction," she added.

The judge proceeded in the order to explain that while the injunction was proper to prevent the plaintiffs from suffering "irreparable" financial harm, whether through compliance costs or lost business, in complying with the challenged mandate, the injunction had been too broadly applied to cover all actual and potential federal contractors in the three states involved in the suit.

The court instead narrowed the preliminary injunction to only cover the actual parties directly involved in challenging Biden's vaccine mandate, according to Courthouse News, which was similar to a ruling in August 2022 from the Eleventh Circuit Court of Appeals that narrowed a district court's nationwide injunction against the same mandate to only apply to the seven states involved in that particular dispute -- Georgia, Alabama, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia.

A "resounding victory against unlawful federal overreach"

Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron (R), who initially filed the suit in 2021, said in a statement, "The Sixth Circuit's decision is a resounding victory against unlawful federal overreach into the personal medical decisions of Kentuckians."

"We argued that the federal contractor vaccine mandate is unlawful and that the Biden administration does not have the authority to impose such a sweeping mandate on Kentuckians," he added. "For over a year, the Biden administration has fought against us, but the court has agreed with our legal arguments and has halted the federal contractor vaccine mandate for Kentucky, Ohio, and Tennessee."

It remains to be seen if President Biden's administration will appeal the Sixth Circuit's ruling to the Supreme Court to overturn the injunction or simply accept the fact that multiple federal courts have now struck down the federal contractor vaccine mandate as unconstitutional.

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