Alison Durkee wrote the following article for Forbes Magazine.
The Supreme Court delivered a mixed ruling on the Biden Administration’s workplace Covid-19 vaccination requirements Thursday, reinstating a vaccine mandate for healthcare workers but temporarily blocking the vaccine-or-test rule for large private employers as litigation against both moves forward.
The court weighed whether to temporarily halt the vaccine-or-test mandate for private employers and whether to reinstate a vaccination requirement for healthcare workers, which federal appeals courts had blocked in a combined 24 states.
The business groups and GOP-led states challenging the policies argued the federal government did not have the authority to implement them without congressional approval, and the rules would wreak havoc by causing widespread staffing shortages.
The court ruled 6-3 to block the vaccine-or-test mandate, ruling it believes the Labor Secretary Marty Walsh “lacked authority to impose the mandate” and it should have been left up to Congress to decide.
The vaccine-or-test mandate is a “significant encroachment” into employees’ lives and health; the court ruled that letting the federal government “regulate the hazards of daily life” would significantly expand its authority.
It ruled 5-4 the federal government did have the authority to impose the healthcare policy; however, pointing out vaccine requirements are “common” for healthcare workers, and many are actually in favor of the policy.
The private employer mandate had already taken effect January 4 and started being enforced January 10, while the healthcare rule isn’t due to start being enforced until later this month.
“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 in an unsigned opinion about the private employer mandate. “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.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan, and Sonia Sotomayor dissented in the private employer case and wouldn’t have blocked it, writing in their dissent the court was “acting outside of its competence and without legal basis” and its decision “stymies the Federal Government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that Covid-19 poses to our Nation’s workers.” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett would have blocked the healthcare worker mandate, arguing the Biden Administration “has not made a strong showing” that the Department of Health and Human Services has the power to “[authorize] a nationwide vaccine mandate” and the issue should be left up to the states.
WHAT TO WATCH FOR
Both mandate cases will now go back to the lower courts to decide whether they’ll be permanently upheld or struck down. With the healthcare mandate now in effect, healthcare workers will be required to receive a first Covid-19 vaccine dose by January 27 and be fully compliant with the policy by February 28.
The vaccine mandates are two of four the Biden Administration has imposed, along with vaccination requirements for federal contractors and employees, and have proved controversial even as most Americans say they’re in favor of them. The private employer policy, which applies to workplaces with more than 100 employees, was initially blocked by the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals in November before the 6th Circuit reinstated it in December, and the 5th and 8th Circuit Courts of Appeals blocked the healthcare policy in December—though the 5th Circuit loosened a lower court ruling that had paused the policy nationwide. While its legal fate has still been up in the air amid the Supreme Court’s consideration of it, many major employers have prepared to comply with it, with companies like Starbucks and Macy’s announcing new vaccination measures this week ahead of the Supreme Court hearing. The Supreme Court’s ruling on the healthcare worker policy, which applies to employees in facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid, came after the court had previously issued rulings upholding several state-level healthcare worker vaccine mandates, including in Maine and New York.
The Supreme Court itself requires all attorneys to test negative for Covid-19 before they appear before it, and all nine justices are fully vaccinated and boosted. Two of the lawyers who argued against the mandates, Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flower and Louisiana Solicitor General Liz Murrill, participated remotely in Friday’s oral arguments because they tested positive for Covid-19.
As always, Matt Rosendale, Montana’s Congressional Seat Representative, is ready to stand and fight for all Montanans. The following was released today.
We are thankful, as always, that Matt Rosendale stands strong for freedom.
This article was published by Forbes. You can read it fully here.