Health Law

6th Circuit bans enforcement of Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors against plaintiff states

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A federal appeals court has ruled that President Joe Biden exceeded his statutory power when he required federal contractors to ensure that their employees are vaccinated for COVID-19, and that they wear face masks in areas of high transmission.

The 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals at Cincinnati ruled Jan. 12 that Biden did not have the power to issue the order under the Federal Property and Administrative Services Act of 1949.

The appeals court upheld a preliminary injunction blocking the mandate but narrowed it so that it applies only to the plaintiffs: Kentucky, Tennessee, Ohio and two Ohio sheriff’s offices.

The government relied on two provisions of the federal procurement law for authority. The first is a provision that authorizes the president to “prescribe policies and directives that [he] considers necessary to carry out this subtitle.” The second is a statement that the purpose of the law is to provide the government with an economical and efficient system for procuring property and services.

The government had argued that the directive was justified because it would improve efficiency in federal contracting by decreasing absenteeism and reducing labor costs.

But the statement about the purpose of the law provides no legal authority, the 6th Circuit said.

“The government’s statutory arithmetic starts with a fundamental error: It searches for power in a powerless provision,” the 6th Circuit said in an opinion by Judge Joan Larsen.

Courthouse News Service, Bloomberg Law and the Volokh Conspiracy are among the publications that covered the decision, Kentucky v. Biden.

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