President Joe Biden's campaign to mandate the COVID-19 vaccine suffered yet another setback in federal court on Monday.
What is the background?
In early November, the Biden administration enacted a vaccine mandate for health care workers at medical facilities that receive federal funds via Medicare or Medicaid. The mandate was issued via the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services.
In response, 10 states — Alaska, Arkansas, Iowa, Kansas, Missouri, Nebraska, New Hampshire, North Dakota, South Dakota, and Wyoming — sued the Biden administration over the mandate.
What did the judge say?
In a 32-page ruling, U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp explained he issued a temporary injunction stopping the mandate because the claim of the states — that CMS lacks authority to enact and enforce such a broad mandate — carries significant legal merit.
One of the driving reasons why the court sided with the states was because, as Schelp explained, the federal government "significantly understate[d] the burden that its mandate would impose on the ability of healthcare facilities to provide proper care, and thus, save lives."
The judge explained:
If the mandate goes into effect, it will irreparably harm patients by impeding access to care for the elderly and for persons who cannot afford it—directly contrary to Medicare and Medicaid’s core objective of providing proper care.
In sum, Plaintiffs’ evidence shows that facilities—rural facilities in particular—likely would face crisis standards of care or will have no choice but to close to new patients or close altogether, both of which would cause significant, and irreparable, harm to Plaintiffs’ citizens.
Schelp also tore into the Biden administration for seeking to enact such a broad mandate without approval from Congress.
"Even if Congress has the power to mandate the vaccine and the authority to delegate such a mandate to CMS—topics on which the Court does not opine today—the lack of congressional intent for this monumental policy decision speaks volumes," Schelp wrote.
"Congress did not clearly authorize CMS to enact the this politically and economically vast, federalism-altering, and boundary-pushing mandate, which Supreme Court precedent requires," he declared.
What was the reaction?
Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt (R), who led the lawsuit, celebrated the ruling.
"Our system of checks & balances, federalism, separation of powers was meant to protect individual liberty. The belief in individual rights is one of America’s great legacies," he said. "Our win today vs. the Biden healthcare worker vaccine mandate is a win for workers & a win for liberty."
CMS has not yet issued a statement. The agency, however, told Reuters it is reviewing the ruling and continued to claim that unvaccinated health care workers pose a threat to safety.