Federal court blocks CMS vaccine mandate

COVID vaccine
Posted at 4:15 PM, Nov 30, 2021
and last updated 2021-12-01 11:08:14-05

HELENA — A federal judge in Louisiana has granted a preliminary injunction against the COVID-19 Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS) vaccine mandate following a lawsuit filed by Montana and 13 other states.

Montana Attorney General Austin Knudsen previously told MTN the Nov. 5 CMS rule is not only unconstitutional, but also will exacerbate the shortage of health care workers, by leading many of them to quit or be fired because they won’t get vaccinated. In addition, a new Montana law that was passed this year by Republican legislators prohibits most private businesses from requiring their employees to be vaccinated.

The CMS vaccine mandate was set to take effect Monday, Dec. 6 and would have required most hospitals and other health-care facilities to have their employees vaccinated against Covid-19 by January.

The ruling by United States District Judge Terry A. Doughty, appointed by former President Trump in 2017, of the Western District of Louisiana puts a hold on enacting the mandate until the case is decided.

Doughty’s order states: “During a pandemic such as this one, it is even more important to safeguard the separation of powers set forth in our Constitution to avoid erosion of our liberties.”

The judge states the Biden Administration does not have the power to bypass Congress, but also notes, “This matter will ultimately be decided by a higher court than this one.”

Knudsen praised the ruling as a win for unvaccinated workers.

"In the past weeks, I've heard from healthcare workers across our state whose jobs were being threatened if they did not comply with President Biden's overreaching federal mandate," Knudsen said in a statement. "With the CMS mandate now blocked in Montana until the case is decided, medical facilities have no reason to threaten their employees if they don't get the vaccine."

Doughty’s ruling follows the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in New Orleans blocking a broader Biden administration mandate through OSHA that required businesses with more than 100 workers require employees to be vaccinated by Jan. 4 or wear masks and be tested weekly.

Appeals of Doughty’s ruling will also go through the 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

Gov. Greg Gianforte and U.S. Sen. Steve Daines also reacted to the ruling on Tuesday.

“Hundreds of Montanans at risk of losing their livelihoods from the president’s unlawful overreach can now breathe a sigh of relief. Not only is the president’s mandate unconstitutional, but it would devastate Montana health care providers already struggling with a long-standing worker shortage,” Gianforte said. “Discrimination based on vaccination status is illegal in Montana, and we’ll continue to work to protect the rights of Montanans.”

“This is big news for Montana. President Biden’s overreaching COVID-19 vaccine mandate threatens Montana hospitals, Montana healthcare workers and Montanans seeking access to essential care. I’m very glad to see it blocked. We must keep up the fight,” said Daines.

Read the full ruling from Judge Doughty here: