A Trump-appointed federal judge blocked President Biden's federal vaccine mandate on Friday.
Judge Jeffrey Brown of the District Court for the Southern District of Texas said his ruling was about "whether the President can, with the stroke of a pen and without the input of Congress, require millions of federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment."
The decision comes months after Biden first applied the mandate back in September, directing 3.5 million federal workers to get vaccinated unless they qualify for medical or religious exemptions. Biden also mandated that private companies of over 100 employers require their staff to get vaccinated or undergo routine testing – a policy that was blocked by the Supreme Court last week.
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The Justice Department has already filed to appeal Brown's decision. White House Press Secretary Jenn Psaki said on Friday that "we are confident in our legal authority here," noting that 98% of all federal workers are vaccinated.
According to the Federal News Network, Brown suggested that the overwhelmingly high rate of vaccination is a reason to lift Biden's mandate because it would target only the remaining 2% of federal employees who have not been vaccinated,
"While vaccines are undoubtedly the best way to avoid serious illness from COVID–19, there is no reason to believe that the public interest cannot be served via less restrictive measures than the mandate, such as masking, social distancing, or part– or full–time remote work," Brown wrote.
"The plaintiffs note, interestingly, that even full-time remote federal workers are not exempt from the mandate," he added. "Stopping the spread of COVID–19 will not be achieved by overbroad policies like the federal–worker mandate."
The decision comes as the nation continues to struggle with the rise in coronavirus cases as a result of the omicron variant. Over the last week, new daily cases have dropped by 47% from a record of 1.4 million