The U.S. Supreme Court ruled Biden administration exceeded its authority in an effort to promote rule for large employers.
United States Supreme Court blocked Joe Biden’s attempt to get employees at large companies vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo weekly tests, a measure the U.S. president described as “common sense.”
At the same time, the Supreme Court on Thursday ruled in favor of allowing the federal government to continue a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the country.
The court, which has a conservative majority, said the Biden administration had exceeded its authority by trying to enforce the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) rule requiring workers at U.S. companies to have at least 100 employees or vaccinated or tested weekly.
More than 80 million people would have been affected.
“OSHA has never imposed such a mandate before. Neither does Congress. “Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has refused to introduce any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion.
“Rather, it is a significant intrusion on the lives – and health – of a large number of employees.”
The Supreme Court’s ruling comes as coronavirus infections associated with the highly infectious Omicron variant rises across the US, where COVID-19 has already killed more than 845,000 people – the highest death toll in the world.
The cases also highlight how divisive the issue of compulsory vaccinations has become in the country, where many Republicans have been critical of mandates imposed by governments and businesses.
The White House said the two mandates would save lives and strengthen the U.S. economy by increasing the number of vaccinated Americans by the millions, while challengers argued that federal agencies exceeded their authority by issuing the mandates without specific authorization from the Congress.
Biden said in a statement on Thursday that the Supreme Court’s ruling that upholds the mandate for healthcare vaccine “will save lives: the lives of patients seeking care in medical facilities, as well as the lives of doctors, nurses and others working there ”.
The mandate requires vaccination for a an estimated 10.3 million workers at about 76,000 health care facilities, including hospitals and nursing homes that serve the elderly, disabled, and low-income Americans.
But Biden said he was “disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common sense life-saving requirements for employees at large companies that were squarely grounded in both science and the law ”.
“This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to allow workers to refuse to be vaccinated, as long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden,” reads his statement.
The Supreme Court ruled 6-3, with the six conservative judges in the majority and three liberal judges differing, to block the broader workplace mandate.
The vote was 5-4 to allow the government of the health care worker, with two Conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Judge Brett Kavanaugh, joining the Liberals in the majority.
More than 208 million Americans, 62.7 percent of the population, were fully vaccinated, and more than a third of them received reinforcement shots, according to data from the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC).