LATEST: Supreme Court Slaps Down Biden's Private Employer Vaccine Mandate

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Posted: Jan 13, 2022 2:35 PM
LATEST: Supreme Court Slaps Down Biden's Private Employer Vaccine Mandate

Source: (AP Photo/LM Otero)

The Supreme Court ruled Thursday to strike down President Joe Biden's Wuhan coronavirus vaccine mandate for private businesses. Justices upheld his executive order requiring vaccination for healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funding. 

The ruling on vaccine requirements for private businesses with more than 100 employees was decided 6-3. Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer dissented. 

"The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, recently enacted a vaccine mandate for much of the Nation’s work force. The mandate, which employers must enforce, applies to roughly 84 million workers, covering virtually all employers with at least 100 employees. It requires that covered workers receive a COVID–19 vaccine, and it pre-empts contrary state laws. The only exception is for workers who obtain a medical test each week at their own expense and on their own time, and also wear a mask each workday," the opinion states. "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. Many States, businesses, and nonprofit organizations challenged OSHA’s rule in Courts of Appeals across the country."

"The Fifth Circuit initially entered a stay. But when the cases were consolidated before the Sixth Circuit, that court lifted the stay and allowed OSHA’s rule to take effect. Applicants now seek emergency relief from this Court, arguing that OSHA’s mandate exceeds its statutory authority and is otherwise unlawful. Agreeing that applicants are likely to prevail, we grant their applications and stay the rule," the opinion continues. 

Further, the Justices pointed out the risk from Wuhan coronavirus exists outside of the work place and therefore, limits OSHA's regulatory power. 

"COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather. That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases. Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization," the ruling states.

The separate ruling on vaccine requirements for healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid was decided 5-4. Justices Neil Gorsuch, Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett and Samuel Alito dissented. 

"The Government has not made a strong showing that this agglomeration of statutes authorizes any such rule," Justice Thomas wrote in his dissent. "The Government proposes to find virtually unlimited vaccination power, over millions of healthcare workers, in definitional provisions, a saving clause, and a provision regarding long-term care facilities’ sanitation procedures. The Government has not explained why Congress would have used these ancillary provisions to house what can only be characterized as a 'fundamental detail' of the statutory scheme. Had Congress wanted to grant CMS power to impose a vaccine man- date across all facility types, it would have done what it has done elsewhere—specifically authorize one."

President Biden responded to the rulings shortly after they were released and encouraged private businesses to issue mandates -- requiring the firing of workers -- despite the decision. 

"Today’s decision by the Supreme Court to uphold the requirement for health care workers will save lives:  the lives of patients who seek care in medical facilities, as well as the lives of doctors, nurses, and others who work there. It will cover 10.4 million health care workers at 76,000 medical facilities. We will enforce it," Biden. 

"The Court has ruled that my administration cannot use the authority granted to it by Congress to require this measure, but that does not stop me from using my voice as President to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy," he continued. "I call on business leaders to immediately join those who have already stepped up – including one third of Fortune 100 companies – and institute vaccination requirements to protect their workers, customers, and communities." 

This post has been updated with additional information. 

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