By Nathalie Voit

A federal judge temporarily halted implementation of President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors on Dec. 7, noting the White House executive order most likely falls outside the president’s scope.

“The Court acknowledges the tragic toll that the COVID-19 pandemic has wrought throughout the nation and the globe,” wrote U.S. District Judge R. Stan Baker, who’s based in Augusta, GA, in his ruling. “However, even in times of crisis, this Court must preserve the rule of law and ensure that all branches of government act within the bounds of their constitutionally granted authorities.”

Judge Baker, appointed by former President Donald Trump, issued a nationwide injunction against the mandate on Tuesday. The judge’s stay on the order came in response to a lawsuit from numerous contractors and seven states claiming the president “exceeded authorization from Congress” when he issued the vaccine requirement for federal contractors earlier in September.

“While the Procurement Act explicitly and unquestionably bestows some authority upon the president, the Court is unconvinced, at this stage of litigation, that it authorized him to direct the type of actions” at issue in the case, Judge Baker wrote. In its “practical application,” Executive Order 14042 “goes beyond the administration and management of procurement and contracting” and “operates as a regulation of public health.”

The plaintiffs who filed the suit are the states of Alabama, Georgia, Idaho, Kansas, South Carolina, Utah, and West Virginia. Other challengers include “the governors of several of those states,” various state agencies, and the Associated Builders and Contractors., which conducts business nationwide.

The Georgia federal judge blocked the mandate after reviewing the plaintiff’s case and determining that the states in question were likely to succeed in their claim regarding unconstitutional overreach by the White House.

According to Judge Baker, allowing the ruling to proceed “would force Plaintiffs to comply with the mandate, requiring them to make decisions which would significantly alter their ability to perform federal contract which is critical to their operations.”

The mandate for federal contractors and subcontractors was originally scheduled to take effect on Dec. 8, but the White House later postponed the deadline to Jan. 4.

The ruling was the latest in a series of court victories against the Biden administration’s pandemic policies. Last week, a federal judge in Kentucky similarly issued a preliminary injunction against the coronavirus vaccine mandate. However, it applied only to contractors in Ohio, Kentucky, and Tennessee after they sued together.

At Tuesday’s briefing, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said the administration remains confident in its ability to enforce the mandate.

“The reason that we proposed these requirements is that we know they work, and we are confident in our ability, legally, to make these happen across the country.”