The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) suspended enforcement of its vaccine mandate for healthcare workers after two court orders earlier this week.
A memo issued by the agency, posted by Missouri Attorney General Eric Schmitt on Twitter Thursday, said that CMS “remains confident” it will prevail in court but is “suspending activities related to the implementation and enforcement of this rule pending future development in the litigation.”
“While these preliminary injunctions are in effect,” it continues to say, “CMS surveyors must not survey providers for compliance with the requirements” with the rule. The memo is referring to federal government officials conducting checks of whether Medicare- or Medicaid-funded facilities are complying with the Biden administration’s mandate that healthcare staff gets fully vaccinated for COVID-19 by Jan. 4.
The CMS rule allows for religious and medical exemptions to the vaccine.
Schmitt, a Republican who is running for Missouri’s U.S. Senate seat, hailed CMS’s memo as a victory in a Twitter post.
This week, the U.S. District Court for the Eastern District of Missouri and the U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana issued preliminary injunctions against the CMS vaccine rule, which was unveiled on Nov. 4 alongside federal rules that mandate either testing or vaccines for employers with 100 or more workers.
“Between the two of them, these injunctions cover all states” as well as Washington, D.C. and U.S. territories, the memo said. CMS has appealed the two federal court decisions.
The rule for private businesses, which is being enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was dealt a blow last month when a U.S. Fifth Court of Appeals issued an injunction that blocked its enforcement. The same court affirmed its previous decision several days later, which is currently being challenged by the Biden administration.
On Nov. 29, the Biden administration’s Office of Management and Budget federal told agencies in a memo that they can wait to terminate or suspend their employees who won’t get vaccinated until the holidays are over.
OMB Deputy Director for Management Jason Miller and Office of Personnel Management Director Kiran Ahuja wrote that “no subsequent enforcement actions, beyond that education and counseling” is mandated for federal workers “who have not yet complied with the vaccination requirement until the new calendar year begins in January.”
Later, White House Jen Psaki downplayed the memo and said that “nothing has changed” regarding enforcement, claiming it is “inaccurate” to say that the White House has “delayed anything, or changed” enforcement of the rule. In September, Biden announced he would require all federal employees to receive the shot.