The Supreme Court has blocked the Biden administration from imposing a 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 clears 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’s vaccine or test rule on U.S. companies with 100 or more employees. Over 80 million people are believed to have been affected.
“OSHA has never imposed such a mandate before. Neither does Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted important legislation regarding the COVID-19 pandemic, it has refused to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has enacted here, ”the Conservatives wrote in an unsigned notice.
In dissent, the three Liberals in court argued that it was the court that went too far in substituting its judgment for that of 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.
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 has already led to millions of people getting vaccinated and private companies to implementing their own demands that are unaffected by the legal challenge.
President Joe Biden detailed his administration’s efforts on Thursday to double its purchases of rapid COVID-19 tests and make high-quality masks available free of charge as coronavirus cases continue to rise nationwide.
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.
The immunization mandate the court will allow nationwide covers virtually all healthcare workers in the country. It applies to healthcare providers who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding, potentially affecting 76,000 healthcare facilities as well as home care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.
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.
In the health care case, only Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito noted their dissent. “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 do not make it possible to limit the exercise of the powers which the agency has long recognized, “the judges wrote in an unsigned opinion, asserting that” the latter principle prevails “in the courts. health care business.
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 federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. All nine judges received booster shots.
Judges heard arguments over the challenges last week. Their questions then alluded to the shared verdict they had delivered on Thursday.
Associated Press writer Zeke Miller contributed to this report.