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Supreme Court blocks national mandate for vaccines and testing for big business

The move is a huge blow to Biden’s attempts to use the power of the federal government to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.

The president stressed the need to be vaccinated against the virus for months and ultimately decided to use the tenure of large employers as the primary means of convincing hesitant Americans to be vaccinated, but the decision effectively cuts Biden’s ability. to impose drastic measures to force Americans to be vaccinated.

By freezing the opinion of a lower court that allowed the regulations to go into effect nationwide, the majority sent a clear message that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, charged with protecting workplace safety, overstepped his authority by issuing such a sweeping emergency directive that would impact millions of workers. In contrast, judges said a separate agency could issue a rule to protect the health and safety of Medicare and Medicaid patients.

“While Congress has unmistakably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational hazards, it has not given OSHA the power to regulate public health more broadly. Require the immunizations of 84 million Americans, selected just because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls into the latter category, ”the unsigned notice in the business case states.

Biden released a statement praising the decision on healthcare workers, but criticized the decision on businesses which will have a much wider effect.

“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to block vital common sense requirements for employees of large corporations that were squarely based on both science and the law,” Biden said.

Moving forward, Biden said “it’s now up to states and individual employers to determine whether they need to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers. during this pandemic by forcing employees to take simple and effective measures. vaccination stage. “

Liberal judges Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan have issued a dazzling dissent.

“When one is wise, one knows not to displace the judgments of experts, acting in the sphere marked out by Congress and under presidential control, to face emergency situations,” they wrote. “Today we are not wise. Faced with a pandemic that still rages on, this court tells the agency charged with protecting the safety of workers that it may not do so in all necessary workplaces. As illness and death continue to increase, this court tells the agency it cannot respond in the most effective way possible. “

The rule is said to impact some 80 million people and requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure their employees are fully immunized or undergo regular tests and wear face coverings at work. There are exceptions for those who have religious objections.

The agency said it had the power to act under a temporary emergency standard designed to protect employees if they are exposed to “serious danger.”

Supreme Court blocks national mandate for vaccines and testing for big business

The Biden administration defended the settlement and argued that the nation faces a pandemic “which is sickening and killing thousands of workers across the country” and that any delay in implementing the requirement getting a vaccine or having regular tests “will lead to illness, hospitalization and death.

During oral argument, the Biden administration had asked that at the very least, if the court said employers could not force employees to be vaccinated, it should leave another requirement for frequent masking and testing in place. The majority rejected this request on Thursday.

Steve Vladeck, CNN Supreme Court analyst and University of Texas law professor, said the trade mandate ruling could have far-reaching effects in future cases involving government power.

“These cases weren’t referendums on vaccine mandates – which can always come from states, local governments, and private companies – they were referendums on whether these types of political decisions are ‘Experts are best taken by experts from agencies accountable to the president or by judges accountable to no one, “Vladeck said.” And if the answer is the latter, it will be true long afterward, and in contexts well beyond. beyond, the immediate response to the Covid pandemic. “

Mandate for healthcare workers

While judges have been receptive to earlier attempts by states to mandate vaccines, the new disputes have focused on federal requirements that have raised different legal questions. Cases come to the Supreme Court in an unusual posture, as judges are only asked to block demands while legal challenges unfold.

The court cleared the vaccination policy rolled out in November by the US Department of Health and Human Services Centers for Medicare & Medicaid, which sought to demand the Covid-19 vaccine for some healthcare workers in hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs.

Supreme Court blocks national mandate for vaccines and testing for big business

According to government estimates, the mandate regulates more than 10.3 million healthcare workers in the United States. Covered staff were originally scheduled to receive the first dose by December 6, and the mandate allows for certain religious and medical exemptions.

Two lower courts had blocked the warrant in 24 states.

Judge Samuel Alito, joined by Tories Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, has expressed his dissent.

“Neither CMS nor the Court sets out a limiting principle as to why, after an unexplained and unjustified delay, an agency can regulate first and listen later, and then put more than 10 million healthcare workers before their choice. their employment or irreversible medical examination. treatment, ”wrote Alito.

This story has been updated with additional details.

CNN’s Kyle Feldscher contributed to this report.