by Bethany Blankley
President Joe Biden lost three federal challenges to his vaccine mandates in just two days this week, with judges ruling the mandates are executive branch overreach and likely unconstitutional.
Federal judges in Missouri, Kentucky and Louisiana issued rulings on Monday and Tuesday in separate cases filed by multiple states, handing primarily Republican attorneys general sweeping victories and ensuring workers wouldn’t be fired for refusing to take the COVID-19 shots.
On Tuesday, U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove in Kentucky blocked Biden’s mandate imposed on federal contractors in response to a lawsuit filed by the attorneys general of Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.
“The question presented here is narrow,” Van Tatenhove wrote in his decision. “Can the president use congressionally delegated authority to manage the federal procurement of goods and services to impose vaccines on the employees of federal contractors and subcontractors? In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no.”
On the same day, U.S. District Judge Terry Doughty in Louisiana issued a nationwide preliminary injunction against Biden’s mandate on health care workers. His order blocked a regulation issued by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services on Nov. 4, which would have required more than 17 million full- and part-time employees, volunteers and contractors working at health care facilities funded by Medicare or Medicaid to lose their jobs if they didn’t get the vaccine by certain deadlines.
Doughty said the Biden administration doesn’t have the constitutional authority to bypass Congress and issue such a mandate.
“If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands,” he wrote. “If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency … During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties. The liberty interests of the unvaccinated requires nothing less.”
Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry said the ruling was a “major win for our healthcare heroes.” He added, “While Joe Biden villainizes our healthcare heroes with his ‘jab or job’ edicts, I will continue to stand up to the President’s bully tactics and fight for liberty.”
Landry led a 14-state coalition that sued the Biden administration, arguing the mandate violates the Administrative Procedure Act, the Social Security Act, the Congressional Review Act and the U.S. Constitution.
Thirteen states joined Louisiana, including Arizona, Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Indiana, Kentucky, Mississippi, Montana, Ohio, Oklahoma, South Carolina, Utah and West Virginia.
Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen said of the ruling, “In the past weeks, I’ve heard from healthcare workers across our state whose jobs were being threatened if they did not comply with President Biden’s overreaching federal mandate. With the CMS mandate now blocked in Montana until the case is decided, medical facilities have no reason to threaten their employees if they don’t get the vaccine.”
The rulings came after one issued on Monday by U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp in Missouri. Schelp granted a preliminary injunction in 10 states that sued over the health care worker mandate, including Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota and Wyoming.
“Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact this politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate,” Schelp argued.
Liberty Counsel Founder and Chairman Mat Staver, who has sued over the mandates on behalf of federal employees, Navy SEALs and members of the U.S. military, said, “It is promising that these federal judges are acknowledging that Biden has no authority to issue unlawful shot mandates to any person in America. It’s a matter of time before more courts rule against this administration’s agenda to force people to choose between their livelihood and religious beliefs and injecting an experimental drug into their bodies.”
In each ruling, the judges restrained the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services and the CMS, their directors, employees, Administrators and Secretaries from implementing the mandate, as well as all healthcare providers, suppliers, owners, employees and all others it attempts to cover.
The preliminary injunctions will remain in effect pending the final resolution of the cases, or until their respective appellate courts, or ultimately, the U.S. Supreme Court rules on the matter.
Earlier in November, the Fifth U.S. Circuit Court in New Orleans twice ruled against Biden’s private sector vaccine mandate, citing “grave” constitutional concerns.
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Bethany Blankley is a contributor to The Center Square.