The Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine-or-testing rule for private businesses with 100+ employees Thursday, but ruled to reinstate the administration’s vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
The court began hearing arguments Jan. 7 regarding Biden’s two mandates, which he announced in 2021 and are set to affect almost 100 million workers. The first policy is a vaccine-or-testing rule for private business with 100+ employees. The second policy is a vaccine mandate for any health care worker operating out of a facility that receives Medicaid and Medicare funding, minus those who qualify for religious and medical exemptions.
While the policies were announced in November, enforcement has not yet begun due to lawsuits. (RELATED: Companies, Business Groups Have Plans To Push Back On Biden’s Vaccine Mandate)
The Supreme Court blocked Biden’s private business rule 6-3, noting the secretary of labor doesn’t have the “authority to impose the mandate.” The court added that Congress should have decided the rules.
BREAKING: The Supreme Court BLOCKS the federal government’s COVID-19 vaccine-or-test requirement for large workplaces. The court ALLOWS a vaccine mandate for workers at federally funded health care facilities to take effect nationwide.
— SCOTUSblog (@SCOTUSblog) January 13, 2022
“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,” the Supreme Court wrote in its opinion, adding that requiring vaccinations for the roughly 84 million Americans this would affect “falls in the latter category.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan dissented from the private business decision, declaring that “we are not wise.”
“In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible,” they wrote in the dissent.
“As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible,” the trio added. “Without legal basis, the Court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others. It undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their authority, to protect American workers from grave danger.”
Biden first announced this rule in September and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration [OSHA] issued rules on it in November. The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit issued a temporary halt of this OSHA rule Nov. 6., and the halt was upheld by the court Nov. 12. The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals subsequently overturned the ruling in December. (RELATED: Companies, Business Groups Have Plans To Push Back On Biden’s Vaccine Mandate)
In a narrower, decision, the Supreme Court ruled 5-4 to allow Biden’s rule for healthcare workers to take effect across the country. The Supreme Court noted that vaccine requirements for healthcare workers are “common,” echoing an argument made by the administration.
“We agree with the Government that the [Health and Human Services] Secretary’s rule falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him,” the majority wrote in a separate opinion from the business ruling.
“After all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm,” the opinion added.
Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented from the healthcare mandate decision.
Alito argued that he does not believe the federal government capable of showing “that Congress has authorized the unprecedented step of compelling over 10,000,000 healthcare workers to be vaccinated on pain of being fired.”