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Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

Published: January 13, 2022
The U.S. Supreme Court is seen on Jan. 13, 2022 in Washington, D.C.. (Image: Alex Wong/Getty Images)

In a major blow to President Biden’s national vaccine mandate, the Supreme Court on Thursday blocked his administration from enforcing its sweeping vaccine-or-test requirements for large private companies.The conservative majority court expressed significant skepticism about Biden’s mandate voting 6-3 to block its enforcement. 

The OSHA mandate would have required that all workers at businesses with 100 or more employees either be vaccinated or submit a negative COVID-19 test on a weekly basis in order to enter the workplace.

The top court however allowed similar requirements to stand for medical facilities that take Medicare or Medicaid payments.

In an unsigned opinion the court wrote that, “Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” adding that, “Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”

However, in a separate ruling, concerning the administration’s vaccination rules for health-care workers, the court asserted,  “We agree with the Government that the [Health and Human Services] Secretary’s rule falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him.”

On Friday, the Biden administration argued that the rules were necessary to address the “grave danger” posed by the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic with liberal justices acknowledging the government’s position and expressing sympathy over the death toll from the pandemic and the unprecedented wave of COVID-19 infections sweeping the nation due to the omicron variant. 

Biden’s mandate faced numerous legal challenges

The mandate was facing numerous legal challenges with industry groups, private business and state attorneys general suing to block the measure while other unions sued in an attempt to expand its scope to smaller businesses. 

In November, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) suspended the enforcement of the mandate after being crushed with legal challenges. 

At the time, approximately 40 parties were participating in challenges of the emergency directive. Amongst the parties was one restaurant operator, Gulf Coast Restaurant Group, while the industry’s largest labor union, Service Employees International Union (SEIU) sought to expand the unprecedented mandate. 

Popular right-wing news outlet, The Daily Wire, was also  one of the entities challenging the mandate. 

Thirty-four of the challenges, seeking to overturn the mandate, were consolidated into a single suit.

READ MORE: Federal Court Blocks Biden Administration’s Private Business COVID-19 Vaccine Mandate

On Nov. 6 of last year, a federal appeals court blocked Biden’s mandate citing “grave statutory and constitutional” issues. 

At the time the court gave the Biden administration just two days to respond to a plaintiff’s request for a permanent injunction. 

“Because the petitions give cause to believe there are grave statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate, the mandate is hereby stayed pending further action by this court,” a panel of judges for the New Orleans-based Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals ruled at the time.

Faced with the panel’s decision on Nov. 8, White House Press Secretary, Karine Jean-Pierre, told a room full of reporters that “people should not wait,” to enforce the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate despite the stay. 

 “They should continue to move forward and make sure they’re getting their workplace vaccinated,” Jean-Pierre said when asked about the court’s decision.

At the time, Republican attorneys general from Texas, Louisiana, Mississippi, South Carolina and Utah in addition to several private companies petitioned the courts and asked for a pause arguing that the requirements of the mandate “exceed the authority of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which will enforce the mandates, and amount to an unconstitutional delegation of power to the executive branch by Congress,” CNBC reported.

The White House argued that pausing the mandate “would likely cost dozens or even hundreds of lives per day,” and further argued that the OSHA was acting within its authority established by Congress.