Kentucky judge blocks Biden COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors

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  • Joe Biden
    Joe Biden
    46th and current president of the United States
  • Gregory F. Van Tatenhove
    United States federal judge
  • Daniel Cameron
    Daniel Cameron
    American lawyer and politician

A federal judge in Kentucky issued a preliminary injunction Tuesday to temporarily block President Joe Biden's mandate for all federal contractors to receive a COVID-19 vaccine by early next year.

U.S. District Judge Gregory Van Tatenhove granted Kentucky Attorney General Daniel Cameron's motion to block the mandate.

Cameron filed the lawsuit in early November along with the Republican attorneys general of Ohio and Tennessee.

Shortly after the ruling was announced, a federal judge in Louisiana blocked a similar measure that mandated health care workers be vaccinated against COVID-19. That ruling involves a nationwide injunction against the mandate, while the Kentucky ruling affects only Kentucky, Ohio and Tennessee.

Cameron was also involved in that lawsuit, which was led by the Louisiana attorney general, but included attorneys general from 13 other states.

In the contractor case, Cameron and the plaintiffs argued the requirement on federal contractors to be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4 as a condition of employment would violate constitutional rights, in addition to creating workforce and budget issues for local jails in Boone, Laurel and Grayson counties that have federal contracts to handle federal prisoners.

“This is a significant ruling because it gives immediate relief from the federal government’s vaccine requirement to Kentuckians who either contract with the federal government or work for a federal contractor,” Cameron said in statement Tuesday.

Later in the day, he issued a statement on the health care ruling, saying: “We are grateful to the court for the relief this decision brings to burdened healthcare facilities and compassionate healthcare workers, in Kentucky and across our nation, who feared losing their jobs under this mandate.”

Louisville's largest hospitals have already issued their own vaccine orders to employees and most deadlines for getting the shots have passed.

U of L Health announced its mandate in May, and Baptist Health and Norton Healthcare announced theirs in August.

Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks to the interim Joint Committee on State and Local  Government about the Kentucky Supreme Court's COVID-19 powers ruling on Sept. 1, 2021.
Attorney General Daniel Cameron speaks to the interim Joint Committee on State and Local Government about the Kentucky Supreme Court's COVID-19 powers ruling on Sept. 1, 2021.

Van Tatenhove, who serves the state's Eastern District, wrote in his order that the contractor case was not about whether vaccines are effective or if the government could require vaccines in some cases, but whether Biden overstepped congressional authority.

More: For 2nd day in a row, Kentucky's Daniel Cameron joins suit to block Biden vaccine mandate

"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?" Van Tatenhove asked. "In all likelihood, the answer to that question is no."

The case will continue to be litigated while the enforcement of the vaccine mandate is paused within the three states.

"Once again, the Court is asked to wrestle with important constitutional values implicated in the midst of a pandemic that lingers," Van Tatenhove wrote. "These questions will not be finally resolved in the shadows."

Cameron's office reported the ruling "is believed to be the first injunction in the country halting the vaccine mandate for federal contractors."

Reach reporter Joe Sonka at jsonka@courierjournal.com and follow him on Twitter at @joesonka. Support strong local journalism by subscribing today at the top of this page.

This article originally appeared on Louisville Courier Journal: Kentucky judge blocks COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal contractors

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