WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court has stopped a major push by the Biden administration to boost the nation’s Covid-19 vaccination rate, a requirement that employees at large businesses get a vaccine or test regularly and wear a mask on the job.
At the same time, the court is allowing the administration to proceed with a vaccine mandate for most health care workers in the US The court’s orders on Thursday came during a spike in coronavirus cases caused by the Omicron variant.
The court’s conservative majority concluded the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to impose the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test rule on US businesses with at least 100 employees. More than 80 million people would have been affected and OSHA had estimated that the rule would save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.
“OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the Covid–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here,” the conservatives wrote in an unsigned opinion.
In dissent, the court’s three liberals argued that it was the court that was overreaching by substituting its judgment for that of health experts. “Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in a joint dissent. President Joe Biden said he was “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.” Biden called on businesses to institute their own vaccination requirements, noting that a third of Fortune 100 companies already have done so. (AP)
FILE - This artist sketch depicts lawyer Scott Keller standing to argue on behalf of more than two dozen business groups seeking an immediate order from the Supreme Court to halt a Biden administration order to impose a vaccine-or-testing requirement on the nation's large employers during the Covid-19 pandemic, at the Supreme Court in Washington, Jan. 7, 2022. The Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against Covid-19 or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job. The court's order Thursday during a spike in coronavirus cases deals a blow to the administration's efforts to boost the vaccination rate among Americans. (Dana Verkouteren via AP, File)
January 14, 2022
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