President Joe Biden’s rule requiring large-company workers to be vaccinated or disguised and tested weekly has been halted by the US Supreme Court.
The requirement exceeded the jurisdiction of the Biden administration, according to the nation’s highest court. Separately, they determined that a less stringent immunization requirement for government-funded healthcare workers might be justified.
The mandates, according to the administration, will contribute to the fight against the epidemic.
President Biden expressed dissatisfaction with the decision “to prohibit common-sense life-saving regulations for employees,” notwithstanding his low support rating. “I call on business leaders to join others who have already stepped up – including one-third of Fortune 100 businesses – and establish vaccine obligations to protect their employees, customers, and communities,” he continued.
Former President Donald Trump applauded the court’s decision, claiming that mandatory vaccines would have “further wrecked the economy.”
Workers would have had to get a Covid-19 shot or be disguised and tested weekly at their own expense under the administration’s workplace vaccine mandate.
It would have touched 84 million workers and would have applied to businesses with at least 100 employees. It was created to be enforced by employers.
The restrictions, which were introduced in November and quickly sparked legal challenges, were seen as overstepping the administration’s authority by critics, including some Republican states and certain business groups.
In the end, judicial interpretations of federal statutes, not notions of individual liberty or appeals to the greater good, determined whether Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates stood or crumbled.
Mr. Biden had the law on his side when forcing healthcare workers to get vaccinated, according to a majority of the Supreme Court, but invoking a 51-year-old workplace safety regulation to impose a vaccine-or-test mandate on all large companies was a bridge too far.
The current Supreme Court balance is once again highlighted, with four solidly conservative justices, three reliably liberal judges, and two at the ideological fulcrum – Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh.
This mixed judicial bag is the latest setback for a presidential Covid-response plan that has sometimes appeared to be lagging behind the pandemic’s latest twists. The administration was sluggish to encourage boosters, and the Omicron-induced rise in testing demand caught them off guard.
Now, Mr. Biden must either persuade Congress to move on mandates – an improbable possibility given the Senate’s refusal to act on the rest of his agenda – or devise fresh strategies to guide the country out of the epidemic doldrums.
By a vote of 5-4, they ruled that the more limited rule affecting more than 10 million employees at government-funded healthcare facilities did not represent the same threat.
Imposing requirements on receivers of public funds, on the other hand, falls “neatly” within the Secretary of Health and Human Services’ power.
The decisions come just as some of the policies were set to take effect this week. On Friday, the court heard the case’s arguments.
The decisions reflected the court’s current political makeup, with a majority of justices nominated by Republican presidents.
The conservative majority’s moderates, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the liberals in allowing the healthcare rule to stand.
The decision comes as the United States is hit by yet another wave of Covid-19 infections, this time involving the Omicron strain, which has resulted in record cases and hospitalization rates.