President Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal workers has been blocked again after the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans dissolved its April ruling by a three-judge panel that upheld the administration’s requirement.
Until the court’s 17 judges reconsider the appeal, the nationwide injunction against the mandate from a Texas federal judge issued in January remains in effect.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown, who was appointed to the District Court for the Southern District of Texas by then-President Donald Trump, issued a nationwide injunction against the requirement in January. At the time, the White House said 98% of federal workers were already vaccinated.
Brown's ruling was followed by back-and-forth rulings at the 5th Circuit. In February, a 5th Circuit panel refused to block Brown's ruling pending appeal. But after hearing arguments in March, a different panel ruled 2-1 that Brown did not have jurisdiction in the case. The panel said those challenging the requirement could have pursued administrative remedies under Civil Service law. Although the ruling was issued in April, it was not to officially take effect until May 31.
Judges Carl Stewart and James Dennis, who were nominated to the 5th Circuit by Democratic President Bill Clinton, were in the majority. Judge Rhesa Barksdale, a senior judge nominated by Republican President George H.W. Bush, dissented, saying the relief the challengers sought does not fall under the Civil Service Reform Act cited by the administration.
Barksdale is a senior judge, meaning he has a reduced case load and is no longer on active status at the court. Because he was part of the ruling panel he can participate in the reconsideration with the active judges. Of the 17 judges currently listed as active judges at the 5th Circuit, 12 are appointees of Republican presidents, including six nominated to the court by Trump. (CBS News)
The 5th Circuit will take up the case again the week of Sept. 12.
Despite pledging as president-elect that he would not push vaccine mandates, Biden announced on Sept. 9, 2021, that he was imposing a vaccine mandate on federal employees with no option to test. He also sought mandates for healthcare workers, federal contractors, and large private employers. Thus far, only a mandate for the healthcare personnel remains in effect along with one that applies to the military.