Supreme Court Blocks Biden’s Vaccine Mandate For Major Employers

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WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration from enforcing a vaccine-or-testing mandate for major employers, dealing a blow to a key element of the White House’s plan to deal with the pandemic as cases result of the Omicron variant are underway. rise.

But the court allowed a more modest mandate, requiring health workers at institutions receiving federal money to be vaccinated.

The vote in the employer’s mandate case was 6 to 3, with Liberal judges disagreeing. The vote in the healthcare case was 5 to 4, with Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. and Judge Brett M. Kavanaugh joined the Liberal judges to form a majority.

Under the employer’s mandate, employees were required to be vaccinated against the coronavirus or wear masks and be tested weekly, although employers were not required to pay for the tests. There were exceptions for employees with religious objections and those who do not come into close contact with other people at work, such as those who work at home or exclusively outside the home.

Parts of the mandate related to record-keeping and masks were set to take effect Monday. The administration had said it would not enforce the testing requirement until February 9.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA, issued the mandate in November, covering more than 84 million workers. The government estimated it would vaccinate 22 million people and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations.

During pleadings at a special session Friday, members of the court’s conservative majority appeared doubtful that the government had permission from Congress to impose the requirements.

That second mandate applies to employees in hospitals and other healthcare facilities who participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs. It would affect more than 17 million workers, the government said, and would “save hundreds or even thousands of lives a month.”

The Supreme Court has repeatedly upheld state vaccination mandates in various situations against constitutional challenges. The new cases are different in that they mainly raise the question of whether Congress authorized the executive branch to enact the requirements.

A divided panel of three judges on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, in Cincinnati, said last month that the mandate appeared lawful for major employers.

“The record establishes that Covid-19 has continued to spread, mutate, kill and block the safe return of American workers to work,” Judge Jane B. Stranch wrote for the majority. “To protect workers, OSHA can and must be able to respond to hazards as they evolve.”

In contradiction, Judge Joan L. Larsen wrote that the government “probably lacks congressional authority” to impose the requirement of vaccines or testing.

“The mandate is directly aimed at protecting unvaccinated people from their own choices,” she wrote. “Vaccines are available over the counter and unvaccinated people can choose to protect themselves at any time.”

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