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U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Tests Rules for Big Business

The United States Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to enforce the requirement that employees at large companies be vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly tests and wear a mask at work.

At the same time, the court authorizes the administration to proceed with a warrant of vaccination for most healthcare workers in the United States.

Court orders Thursday during a peak in coronavirus cases were a mixed bag for the administration’s efforts to increase vaccination rates among Americans.

The conservative majority in court concluded that the administration had overstepped its authority in seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine or test rule on U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. More than 80 million people have been affected and OSHA estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and avoid 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.

OSHA has never imposed such a mandate. Neither has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, it has refused to enact any measure similar to that which ‘OSHA enacted here, “the Tory Justices wrote in an unsigned notice.

A health worker administers a COVID-19 vaccine in Oakland, Pa. On Wednesday. (Andrew Rush / Pittsburgh Post-Gazette / The Associated Press)

In dissent, the three Liberals on the tribunal argued that it was the tribunal that went too far in substituting its judgments for health experts.

“Acting outside its jurisdiction and without a legal basis, the court moves the judgments of government officials responsible for responding to health emergencies at work,” wrote judges Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in a joint dissent.

President Joe Biden said he was “disappointed that the Supreme Court chose to block vital common sense requirements for employees of large companies that were squarely based on both science and the law.”

Biden called on companies to institute their own vaccination requirements, noting that a third of Fortune 100 companies have already done so.

“An important victory for employers”

When crafting the OSHA rule, White House officials always anticipated legal challenges – and privately, some doubted it could withstand them.

The administration nonetheless still considers the rule a success, as it is already pushing millions of people to get vaccinated and encouraging private companies to implement their own demands that are unaffected by the legal challenge.

The OSHA rule was initially blocked by a federal appeals court in New Orleans and then allowed to go into effect by a federal appeals board in Cincinnati.

Both rules had been challenged by Republican-led states. Additionally, business groups have attacked OSHA’s emergency regulations as being too costly and likely to cause workers to quit their jobs at a time when it is already difficult to find new employees.

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Tests Rules for Big Business
People line up at a COVID-19 testing site in Boston on Wednesday. (Charles Krupa / The Associated Press)

The National Retail Federation, the nation’s largest retail group, called the Supreme Court ruling a “significant victory for employers.”

The vaccine’s mandate the court will clear to run nationwide by a 5-to-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the Liberals in forming a majority.

The mandate covers virtually all healthcare workers nationwide, applying to providers who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It affects 10.4 million workers in 76,000 health facilities as well as home care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.

Biden said the court ruling will “save lives.”

WATCH | The vaccine could make the difference between “life and death,” Biden says:

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Tests Rules for Big Business

Biden: vaccine could make the difference between “life and death”

US President Joe Biden on Tuesday appealed to the unvaccinated to get vaccinated against COVID-19, saying they were putting their loved ones at risk and hospitals were again overrun. 1:05

In an unsigned opinion, the court wrote: “The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress did not give it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no reason to limit the exercise of authorities whose agency has long been recognized. ”He said that the“ last principle rules ”in healthcare.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent that the case revolved around whether the administration has the power “to force healthcare workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they don’t want.” and cannot cancel ”. He said the administration had not convincingly shown Congress gave him that authority.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett concurred with Thomas’ opinion. Alito wrote a separate dissent which the other three conservatives also joined.

U.S. Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccination, Tests Rules for Big Business
Left to right: U.S. Supreme Court Justices Samuel Alito, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Sonia Sotomayor, John Roberts, Neil Gorsuch, Stephen Breyer, Amy Coney Barrett and Elena Kagan pose for a group photo in April 2021. (Erin Schaff / The New York Times / AP)

Decisions by the federal courts of appeals in New Orleans and St. Louis had blocked the mandate in about half of the states. The administration was already taking steps to apply it elsewhere.

More than 208 million Americans, 62.7% of the population, are fully immunized, and more than a third of them have received boosters, according to the United States Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All nine judges received booster shots.

The courthouse remains closed to the public, and lawyers and journalists are asked to provide negative test results before being allowed into the courtroom for arguments, although vaccinations are not mandatory.

Judges heard arguments over the challenges last week. Their questions then alluded to the shared verdict they had delivered on Thursday.

A separate vaccine warrant for federal contractors, suspended after lower courts blocked it, has not been considered by the Supreme Court.