A federal judge in Florida on Wednesday sided with the state against the Biden administration, putting in place a temporary injunction against the federal government’s vaccine mandate for federal contractors.
U.S. District Judge Steven Merryday issued a 38-page opinion that challenged the Biden administration’s justifications for the sweeping mandate, which would require the employees of all agencies and businesses that contract with the federal government to be vaccinated against COVID-19 with limited exceptions. Merryday’s opinion has little practical impact since a federal judge in Georgia issued an injunction against Biden’s mandate earlier this month.
“The extent of any absenteeism attributable to COVID-19 among contractors and subcontractors is unexplained,” Merryday wrote, according to the News Service of Florida. “The frequency and duration of any procurement delay attributable to COVID-19 is unexplained. The extent of any cost increases attributable to COVID-19 is unexplained. In other words, the extent of any procurement problem, past or future, attributable to COVID-19 is undemonstrated and is merely a hastily manufactured but unproven hypothesis about recent history and a contrived speculation about the future. Obviously, no massive extension and expansion of presidential power is necessary to cure a non-existent problem and certainly neither ‘good cause’ nor ‘urgent and compelling circumstances’ exists to justify summary disregard of the requirements of administrative law and rulemaking.”
Last month, Florida Governor Ron DeSantis (R) signed legislation outlawing vaccine mandates in his state in a direct challenge to President Joe Biden’s mandate.
“It’s the United States of America,” DeSantis said at a signing ceremony in Brandon, Florida. “The states are the primary vehicles to protect people’s freedoms; their health, their safety, their welfare, and our Constitutional system. What Biden is doing is not constitutional. There has never been a federal vaccine mandate imposed on the general public.”
Weeks later in response to a lawsuit from Georgia over the vaccine mandate, U.S. District Court Judge R. Stan Baker issued a nationwide injunction against the mandate for federal contractors. While Baker’s order was not the first injunction over the mandate, it was the first to cover the entire U.S., temporarily nullifying Biden’s order that was set to take effect on January 4.
Federal attorneys attempted to get Florida’s lawsuit dismissed by arguing that the state lacked standing to sue over the vaccine mandate. Merryday disagreed, citing the conflict between state law and Biden’s vaccine mandate in his opinion. He used the University of Florida as an example.
“As Florida’s reply shows, the University of Florida, for example, is trapped in a bind,” Merryday wrote. “If the federal government awards a contract proposal subject to the executive order, the university’s compliance with the mandatory clause will conflict with the university’s duty to obey state law prohibiting a vaccination requirement.”
“Absent a preliminary injunction, the defendants’ challenged actions will force each state agency to comply with Florida law and lose existing and prospective contracts,” the judge continued. “If a state agency forgoes the opportunity to contract with the federal government, no judicial relief can remedy the loss. Even a state agency’s hesitation — in deference to state law — to acquiesce to the defendant’s request to modify an existing contract might sour and end present and prospective contracts that benefit Florida and the nation.”