TOPEKA – (January 3, 2022) – A federal judge this past weekend temporarily prohibited the Biden administration from enforcing its new vaccine-and-mask mandate for Head Start preschool programs in Kansas, Attorney General Derek Schmidt said today.
Schmidt last month filed a federal lawsuit challenging the legality of this new federal mandate, and on Saturday a federal judge in Louisiana granted his request for a temporary injunction prohibiting enforcement of the mandate while its legality is reviewed by the courts. The injunction prohibits enforcement of the mandate, which generally requires Head Start employees to be vaccinated against COVID-19 and requires students age 2 and older to wear masks, in the 24 states that joined in bringing the lawsuit. Enforcement is prohibited in Kansas.
“This latest attempt by the Biden administration to centrally plan the daily lives of Americans in the name of mitigating COVID-19 is perhaps the most absurd so far,” Schmidt said. “The federal government simply has no legal authority to order two-year-olds to wear masks all day at preschool.”
The Head Start mandate is the fourth of President Biden’s COVID-19 mandates Schmidt has challenged in court, and he has obtained injunctions prohibiting enforcement of each of the four, although one injunction was later overturned by an appellate court and is undergoing further judicial review. The status of the four challenged mandates is as follows:
Head Start mandate: Generally requires staff to be vaccinated and children age 2 and older to wear masks. Currently blocked in Kansas by federal court injunction after Schmidt filed suit challenging its legality. The federal government has not stated whether it plans to appeal the injunction.
Federal contractor mandate: Generally requires businesses and entities, such as defense contractors and research universities, to employ only vaccinated workers. Currently blocked nationwide by federal court injunction after Schmidt challenged its legality. The court of appeals denied a stay of the injunction, and the federal government has not yet sought further review.
Health care mandate: Generally requires hospitals, nursing homes and other health care facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid payments to require their employees to be vaccinated. Currently blocked in Kansas by federal court injunction after Schmidt challenged its legality, and that injunction has been affirmed by a federal appellate court. The U.S Department of Justice has appealed the injunction to the U.S. Supreme Court, which has scheduled oral argument in the case for this coming Friday, January 7.
Private employer mandate: Generally requires private employers that are subject to regulation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration and that have 100 or more employees to require their employees to be vaccinated or undergo regular COVID-19 testing. The mandate is currently scheduled to go into effect after an earlier stay was overturned by an appellate court, but Kansas and other plaintiffs have appealed and asked the U.S. Supreme Court to reinstate the stay to block the mandate. The high court has scheduled oral argument in the case for this coming Friday, January 7.
Schmidt said he expects greater clarity on the rapidly evolving legal status of the Biden administration’s mandates after the Supreme Court hears arguments Friday and, presumably, swiftly rules on the requested temporary injunctions. He said he is optimistic the Supreme Court will favor the injunctions.
“In my view, the Biden administration has contorted the law and taken legal shortcuts that shut out public input in order to impose its will on American citizens and businesses,” Schmidt said. “We think these federal mandates are illegal, but merely complaining about them accomplishes nothing – so we’re in court standing up for Kansas and fighting back.”
A copy of the Head Start mandate ruling is available at https://bit.ly/3FS9LZW.