The U.S. Supreme Court has blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate ordering large companies to impose a “vaccine or test” mandate on their employees, although it has allowed a separate rule requiring health care workers to be vaccinated against Covid-19 in order to to enter.
The decision on the private employer mandate gives a boost to the Biden administration’s response to the Covid-19 pandemic, as hospitalizations linked to the virus have reached new highs across the country due to the spread of the highly infectious Omicron variant.
The verdict ended in the middle of a difficult week for the White House, as the president faced a reprimand from crucial Democratic senators in his attempt to pass voting legislation, Russia has called for US de-escalation in the stand-off over Ukraine and the consumer price index rose with its biggest annual pace since 1982, fueling inflation fears.
Biden’s poll numbers continue to decline – with 41.8 percent of Americans approving of the work he does, compared to 53.2 percent disapproving, according to Realclearpolitics.com.
Following Thursday’s decision, Biden said “it is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether they should make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to the simple and effective step of being vaccinated. ”
The 6-3 decision published on Thursday on the employer mandate – in which all six of the court’s conservatives opposed the three-member liberal wing – will suspend the “vaccine or test” rules as lawsuits unfold in lower courts. The Biden administration argued that it should be implemented to counter the urgent public health crisis.
Under the directive, companies with at least 100 employees will have to show that their staff is either fully vaccinated or tested weekly. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an agency that regulates workplace safety, released details of the mandate last year.
The court’s majority opinion said “requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, chosen simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees” implies that Osha can regulate public health in a broad way, a power that Congress did not grant to the agency.
The mandate would take effect on Monday, though Osha said it would give businesses an extra month to introduce a testing regime for unvaccinated workers.
The judges split 5-4 to put in place a separate mandate for health care workers, preventing facilities from receiving federal funding if their staff were not vaccinated, with exceptions for medical or religious reasons. Chief Justice John Roberts and Judge Brett Kavanaugh joined the court’s Liberals to vote to retain the mandate, while the other Conservatives differed.
The mandate for health care workers was not issued by Osha, but by the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which has authority over funding for federal health programs.
The majority opinion said that although challenges posed by a pandemic did not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress did not confer on it. . . such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for restricting the exercise of authority which the agency has long recognized. ”
The cases highlighted tensions between federal and state governments, some of which claim the White House’s policies go too far. The Biden administration has argued that it has the legal authority to ignore states’ concerns because the pandemic is a health emergency.
Additional report by James Politi in Washington