A federal court in Missouri blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine mandate for health-care workers in 10 states.
The preliminary injunction by the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri marks the first victory for opponents of the mandate, which requires health-workers to be vaccinated by Jan. 4, 2022.
The lawsuit is one of four challenges the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services faces against the rule. More than half of states are now involved in one of the challenges, which all claim the mandate will exacerbate staffing shortages. A federal judge in Florida declined to block the rule in a separate suit.
Legal observers have said the mandate is on firm footing because the Medicare agency has the right to govern the rules facilities must follow if they want funding.
“We’re obviously going to abide by the law and fight any efforts in courts” to prevent health-care facilities from protecting their workforces,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters Monday.
But U.S. District Judge Matthew Schelp said that the CMS vaccine mandate is most likely an overstep of the agency’s authority. “The nature and breadth of the CMS mandate requires clear authorization from Congress—and Congress has provided none,” he said in the Monday opinion.
“The vast economic and political significance” of the mandate also warrants a preliminary injunction, Schelp said. The CMS estimated that the first year of compliance would cost $1.38 billion, and represents the “heavy hand of the federal government.”
If the injunction is appealed, it would land in the Eighth Circuit, which has just one active or senior status judge appointed by a Democrat out of 14.
Missouri, Nebraska, Arkansas, Kansas, Iowa, Wyoming, Alaska, South Dakota, North Dakota, and New Hampshire aren’t subject to the rule while the injunction stands.
The CMS didn’t immediately respond to a request for comment.
The case is Missouri v. Biden, E.D. Mo., No. 4:21-cv-01329, 11/29/21.