A lone protester stands outside the United States Supreme Court as he hears arguments against the Biden administration’s national COVID-19 vaccine or testing warrants, in Washington, Jan. 7, 2022.
Jonathan Ernst | Reuters
The Supreme Court on Thursday barred the Biden administration from enforcing its general vaccine or testing requirements for large private companies, but allowed similar requirements for medical establishments that accept Medicare or Medicaid payments.
The decision came three days after the entry into force of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s emergency measure.
This mandate required workers in companies with 100 or more employees to get vaccinated or submit a negative Covid test every week to enter the workplace. It also required unvaccinated workers to wear masks indoors at work.
OSHA, which oversees workplace safety for the Department of Labor, issued the warrants under its emergency power established by Congress. OSHA can shorten the normal rulemaking process, which can take years, if the Secretary of Labor determines that a new workplace safety standard is needed to protect workers from serious harm.
The Biden administration argued in the High Court on Friday that the rules were necessary to deal with the “grave danger” posed by the Covid pandemic. Liberal judges, clearly in favor of the government’s position, highlighted the devastating death toll from the pandemic and the unprecedented wave of infection sweeping the country due to the omicron variant.
But the court’s 6-3 conservative majority expressed deep skepticism about the federal government’s move.
Chief Justice John Roberts, who was appointed by President George W. Bush, said during arguments that he found it difficult to say that the 1970 OSHA law “gave free rein. it is up to the agencies to adopt such broad regulations “.
Vaccine or testing rules have faced a spate of lawsuits from 27 states with Republican attorneys general or governors, private companies, church groups and national industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Associations and the National Federation of Independent Business.
The warrants were the most extensive use of power by the federal government to protect workers from Covid since the start of the pandemic.
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