Supreme Court halts COVID-19 vaccine rule for US businesses

An artist sketch depicts lawyer Scott Keller arguing Jan. 7 at the U.S. Supreme Court in Washington, D.C., on behalf of more than two dozen business groups seeking an immediate halt to a Biden administration order imposing vaccine and testing requirements on the nation’s large employers during the COVID-19 pandemic. Justices forbade such requirements, a blow to the administration’s efforts to boost the vaccination rate among Americans.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation’s COVID-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job. At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the nation.

The court’s conservative majority concluded that the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on U.S. businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.

“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.

In dissent, the court’s three liberals — Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgment for that of health experts.

President Biden said he was “disappointed” in the ruling and called on businesses to institute their own vaccination requirements.

The vaccine mandate that the court will allow to be enforced nationwide scraped by on a 5-4 vote, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joining the liberals to form a majority. The mandate covers virtually all health care workers in the country, applying to providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It affects 10.4 million workers at 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.

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 has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.” It said the “latter principle governs” in the health care arena.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in dissent that the case was about whether the administration has the authority “to force health care workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo.” He said the administration hadn’t shown convincingly that Congress gave it that authority.

Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett signed onto Thomas’ opinion.

Recommended for you

(0) comments

Welcome to the discussion.

Please note: Online comments may also run in our print publications.
Keep it clean. Please avoid obscene, vulgar, lewd, racist or sexually-oriented language.
Please turn off your CAPS LOCK.
No personal attacks. Discuss issues & opinions rather than denigrating someone with an opposing view.
No political attacks. Refrain from using negative slang when identifying political parties.
Be truthful. Don’t knowingly lie about anyone or anything.
Be proactive. Use the “Report” link on each comment to let us know of abusive posts.
Share with us. We’d love to hear eyewitness accounts or history behind an article.
Use your real name: Anonymous commenting is not allowed.
.
The News&Guide welcomes comments from our paid subscribers. Tell us what you think. Thanks for engaging in the conversation!

Thank you for reading!

Please log in, or sign up for a new account and purchase a subscription to read or post comments.