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WASHINGTON, DC - NOVEMBER 12: U.S. President Joe Biden speaks during a cabinet meeting in the Cabinet Room of the White House November 12, 2021 in Washington, DC. Biden discussed the recently passed Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act. (Photo by Drew Angerer/Getty Images)Getty Images

NEW ORLEANS (LifeSiteNews) — A federal appeals court reaffirmed a pause on the Biden administration’s new COVID-19 vaccine mandate for private businesses, slamming the unprecedented rule as “staggeringly overbroad” and “fatally flawed.”

A three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled Friday that the mandate, issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) as an emergency temporary standard earlier this month, “grossly exceeds OSHA’s statutory authority.”

The panel rejected an appeal by the Biden Justice Department to lift a stay imposed by the court last week.

The vaccine mandate “threatens to substantially burden the liberty interests of reluctant individual recipients,” Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, a Trump appointee, wrote for the panel.

“Likewise, the companies seeking a stay in this case will also be irreparably harmed in the absence of a stay, whether by the business and financial effects or a lost or suspended employee, compliance and monitoring costs associated with the Mandate, the diversion of resources necessitated by the Mandate, or by OSHA’s plan to impose stiff financial penalties on companies that refuse to punish or test unwilling employees.”

“It lastly bears noting that the Mandate raises serious constitutional concerns that either make it more likely that the petitioners will succeed on the merits,” Engelhardt added.

OSHA’s emergency temporary standard requires all businesses with more than 100 employees to make workers take the COVID-19 vaccine or undergo weekly testing by January 4. Employers would be forced to implement mask requirements for unvaccinated employees by December 5.

The mandate, which impacts an estimated 84 million workers, threatens fines of $13,653 per violation and more than $136,000 for repeated violations.

The Fifth Circuit temporarily blocked the rule last Saturday, saying that it posed “grave statutory and constitutional issues.”

A group of Republican-led states, including Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina, and Utah, filed a lawsuit with the court to block the mandate hours after OSHA announced it, stating that the agency lacked authority to mandate vaccination nationwide.

Judge Engelhardt affirmed those arguments, writing that OSHA was not intended by Congress “to make sweeping pronouncements on matters of public health affecting every member of society in the profoundest of ways.”

The mandate “likely exceeds” the constitutional authority of the federal government altogether, Engelhardt continued, “because it regulates noneconomic inactivity that falls squarely within the States’ police power.”

At least 27 Republican-led states have challenged the rule in various circuit courts, joined by several businesses and religious groups. Around 20 states have also sued against Biden’s COVID vaccine requirements for federal contractors, which remain in effect.

A special judicial panel will consolidate all legal challenges to the OSHA mandate to one appellate court on Tuesday, in a “multicircuit lottery” requested by the Biden administration, the Washington Free Beacon reported.

A new court could revoke the stay issued by the Fifth Circuit, though the fate of the mandate will likely be decided by the Supreme Court.

The Biden administration has moved at a record pace to fill vacancies on federal courts in recent weeks and has already flipped at least one circuit court to majority Democrat-appointed since January.