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GALVESTON, TX — A federal judge blocked President Joe Biden's COVID-19 vaccine mandate for federal workers Friday.
U.S. District Judge Jeffrey Brown ruled the government can't discipline federal workers for being unvaccinated, according to court documents. It's the latest blow to Biden's efforts to get more Americans to receive the vaccine.
On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court ruled against Biden's vaccine mandate for private companies with more than 100 employees.
Brown declined to enjoin the executive order mandating vaccines for private companies because the Supreme Court had already done so, though he cited the Supreme Court's decision when it came to enjoining the second order. The decision to enjoin Biden's order for federal workers wasn't about whether people should get vaccinated or the federal government's power, if "executed properly," to mandate a vaccine, Brown wrote.
"It is instead 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," Brown wrote in his decision. "That, under the current state of the law as just recently expressed by the Supreme Court, is a bridge too far."
Under the mandate, federal workers faced discipline, including possible termination, for not receiving the vaccine, while federal contractors were at risk of losing their contracts if they didn't comply.
Biden announced in September that more than 3.5 million federal workers were required to undergo vaccination, with no option to get regularly tested instead, unless they secured approved medical or religious exemptions. The requirement kicked in this past November, and White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Friday that 98% of federal workers are vaccinated.
“We are confident in our legal authority here,” she added.
The Department of Justice already filed an appeal to the U.S. Court of Appeals Fifth Circuit, court documents show.
The lawsuit was filed by a group called Feds For Medical Freedom.
The Associated Press contributed to this story.