Supreme Court Blocks Business Vaccine Mandate

A nurse is seen leaning into a car window to administer a COVID-19 test.

The U.S. Supreme Court voted 6 to 3 this week to block enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) order mandating Covid vaccines or weekly Covid testing for all private sector companies with 100 or more employees.

At the same time, the court voted 5 to 4 to allow the vaccine mandate for all health-care facility workers, if that facility takes Medicare or Medicaid payments.

The Supreme Court’s decision will stay enforcement of the large employer mandate while the lower courts continue to hear challenges to its legality. The rulings came three days after the OSHA’s emergency temporary standard started to take effect.

Justices seemed to be compelled by arguments concerning whether a federal agency could issue a regulation with this large an economic and political significance without the clear authorization from Congress.

“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers,” the court wrote in an unsigned opinion, “it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly.”

President Joe Biden responded to the decision shortly after its announcement in a statement.

“Had my administration not put vaccination requirements in place, we would be now experiencing a higher death toll from COVID-19 and even more hospitalizations,” Biden said. “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law. This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden.”

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