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Supreme Court blocks Biden vaccine mandate for large employers

President Joe Biden. (Yuri Gripas/Abaca Press/TNS)
January 13, 2022

On Thursday, the United States Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s OSHA-enforced COVID-19 vaccine or test mandate for large private businesses. The court also allowed federally-funded healthcare facilities to implement a vaccine mandate for workers nationwide.  

In a 6-3 decision, the Supreme Court blocked Biden’s OSHA mandate, which required private businesses with more than 100 employees to force their staff to take the COVID-19 vaccine, or wear masks and be tested weekly. The rule impacted more than 84 million private workers.

Employers could have faced $14,000 fines for every violation of the new rule.

“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 court wrote.

“Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category.”

The three progressive members of the court, Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan, dissented.

In its second decision of the day, the Supreme Court voted 5-4 to give the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate in federally-funded healthcare facilities the go-ahead.

“The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it,” the court said. “At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have.”

Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented.

In the dissenting opinion, Justice Thomas argued that the government has not “not made a strong showing that Congress gave CMS (Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services) that broad authority.”

“These cases are not about the efficacy or importance of COVID–19 vaccines. They are only about whether CMS has the statutory authority to force healthcare workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo,” he stated.

In November, 11 states filed a lawsuit against Biden’s mandate, which argued that for more than 100 years, the United States Supreme Court “has recognized that policies on compulsory vaccination lie within the police powers of the States, and that ‘[t]hey are matters that do not ordinarily concern the national government,’” according to Jacobson v. Massachusetts.