Biden still pushing federal worker vaccine mandate despite relaxed CDC guidelines
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President Biden’s administration is still pursuing litigation to implement a mandate to vaccinate federal workers despite recently amended Centers for Disease Control Prevention (CDC) guidelines for vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
The case, called Feds for Medical Freedom v. Biden, is due to be heard in full in the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals on September 13. It stems from a case filed in Texas last December that resulted in a federal trial court ruling a nationwide injunction against the federal government enforcing its vaccination mandate for civilian employees.
An appeals court panel then ruled for the Biden administration, overturning the trial court. But labor group Feds for Medical Freedom has asked the entire 17-judge appeals court to weigh in. The court agreed, suspending its previous decision and preventing the execution of the warrant until a final decision was rendered. Now, the Biden administration is poised to take to court to try to enforce that mandate next month.
But the CDC recently changed its coronavirus guidelines, making quarantine and prevention recommendations effectively equal between vaccinated and unvaccinated people.
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“The CDC’s COVID-19 prevention recommendations no longer discriminate based on a person’s vaccination status because breakthrough infections do occur, although they are usually mild, and people who have had COVID-19 but are not vaccinated have some degree of protection against serious illnesses from their previous infection,” the latest updated guidelines state.
The guidelines also state that “quarantine of exposed individuals is no longer recommended, regardless of vaccination status.” This recommendation, according to the CDC, is intended to help “limit the social and economic impacts” of virus mitigation measures.
Ilya Shaprio, senior fellow at the Manhattan Institute for Constitutional Studies, told Fox News Digital that these changes to CDC guidelines would complicate the Biden administration’s efforts to enforce the vaccination mandate for federal employees.
“I imagine the government is looking closely at its position on litigation and any remaining vaccine mandate cases,” he said. “I think the court in this and other cases will have a yellow eye on representations from the government that a warrant is as necessary now as it was six or 12 months ago.”
Shapiro added, “It goes to the standard of arbitrariness and capriciousness in an administrative process…If there really is no reason to require this if the CDC itself…says that there is no benefit if there is no difference between vaccinated and unvaccinated, so why is he doing this?”
Federal Medical Freedom Chairman Marcus Thornton added that, “With the CDC making little distinction between vaccinated and unvaccinated populations, it is clear that ‘The Science’ does not support forced vaccinations. The administration should therefore rescind its unscientific and unconstitutional executive order mandating COVID vaccines for all federal employees and contractors.
“Furthermore, he should apologize to the men and women who have been subjected to harassment and abuse, withdraw all COVID vaccination requirements, rescind all disciplinary action taken with respect to vaccination status and s ‘commit to respecting individual freedom and medical autonomy,'” Thornton added.
The Justice Department declined to comment when asked if changing CDC guidelines would affect its litigation. He also did not respond to a question asking if there was any reason to continue pursuing the mandate now that there is parity between vaccinated and unvaccinated people in government guidelines.
The White House did not respond to a request for comment asking the same questions.
In a brief argument before the Fifth Circuit last month that the vaccination mandate should be allowed to go forward, one of the main reasons the government gives for the mandate is to preserve worker efficiency.
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Just as President Reagan concluded that the use of illegal drugs by federal employees outside of working hours could have negative effects in their workplace, Executive Order 14043 reflects a determination that contracting and spreading a contagious virus compromises workplace efficiency.
This problem can be solved by the new parity for unvaccinated people in CDC guidelines, aimed at limiting the “economic impacts” of virus mitigation measures.
The Biden administration also makes several other arguments in its brief, both about why it has the power to implement the mandate and why it needs to be done now.
He argued that employees can request exemptions from the mandate – although such exemptions are very rarely granted. And the government has said vaccination status is not a class, but rather a behavior. This is similar, according to the government, to how users of illegal drugs are not a protected class.
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“Just as President Reagan concluded that the use of illegal drugs by federal employees outside of work hours could negatively impact their workplace, Executive Order 14043 reflects a determination that contracting and spreading a virus contagious impairs the effectiveness of the workplace,” the government brief states. “The district court’s justification would call into question requirements such as drug testing of federal employees.”
The federal government for medical freedom and its allies, meanwhile, argue that Biden simply doesn’t have the power to force the entire civilian federal workforce to take a COVID-19 vaccine. And they say getting a COVID-19 vaccine is fundamentally different from other behaviors, and constitutes status.
“The central question before the court is simple: Does any of the statutes cited as the basis for Executive Order 14,043 grant the President — or one of his subordinates — the power to compel federal employees to get vaccinated? The answer is no,” the America First Legal Foundation said in an amicus brief.
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“Executive orders issued by Republican and Democratic presidents illustrate the true reach of Section 7301,” America First Legal added. “In 1969, President Nixon authorized many federal employees to participate in labor organizations…In 1997, President Clinton banned smoking in the federal workplace…Both executive orders regulated the continued conduct of federal employees in the workplace. conduct at work, let alone with medical choices outside of work.”
America First Legal added, “In contrast, President Biden has ordered federal employees to have ‘fully vaccinated’ status. And as a status-based regulation, the President’s Order does not require, authorize, or prohibit any type of ongoing behavior. cover the behavior of all employees. President Biden’s executive order does not at all regulate the conduct of federal employees who were “fully vaccinated” prior to September 9.”