Supreme Court Rejects Biden Admin's Private Sector Vaccine Mandate, Upholds Requirement for Healthcare Workers
How do you feel about the rulings?
by SCOTUS WATCH | 1.13.22
What’s the story?
- The Supreme Court on Thursday issued a pair of rulings in cases related to the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates, striking down a vaccine-or-test requirement for private sector employers with at least 100 workers, and upholding a mandate for healthcare workers at facilities participating in Medicare and Medicaid unless granted a religious or health exemption.
- Justices split 6-3 along ideological lines in the private sector mandate case, with the Court’s conservatives holding that the Biden administration and the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) overstepped their legal authority by issuing an emergency temporary standard (ETS) requiring private employers with at least 100 employees to either show proof of vaccination or show a negative once a week and wear a mask on the job. The Court’s three liberal justices dissented. The unsigned majority opinion read in part:
“Contrary to the dissent’s contention, imposing a vaccine mandate on 84 million Americans in response to a worldwide pandemic is simply not “part of what the agency was built for.” That is not to say OSHA lacks authority to regulate occupation-specific risks related to COVID-19. Where the virus poses a special danger because of the particular features of an employee’s job or workplace, targeted regulations are plainly permissible. We do not doubt, for example, that OSHA could regulate researchers who work with the COVID-19 virus. So too could OSHA regulate risks associated with working in particularly crowded or cramped environments. But the danger present in such workplaces differs in both degree and kind from the everyday risk of contracting COVID-19 that all face. OSHA’s indiscriminate approach fails to account for this crucial distinction ― between occupational risk and risk more generally ― and accordingly the mandate takes on the character of a general health measure, rather than an “occupational safety or health standard.” …
We are told by the States and the employers that OSHA’s mandate will force them to incur billions of dollars in unrecoverable compliance costs and will cause hundreds of thousands of employees to leave their jobs. For its part, the Federal Government says that the mandate will save over 6,500 lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. It is not our role to weigh such tradeoffs. In our system of government, that is the responsibility of those chosen by the people through democratic processes. 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. 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 liberal justices’ dissenting opinion read in part:
"So the administrative agency charged with ensuring health and safety in workplaces did what Congress commanded it to: It took action to address COVID–19’s continuing threat in those spaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (Standard), requiring either vaccination or masking and testing, to protect American workers. The Standard falls within the core of the agency’s mission: to “protect employees” from “grave danger” that comes from “new hazards” or exposure to harmful agents. OSHA estimates—and there is no ground for disputing—that the Standard will save over 6,500 lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations in six months’ time.
Yet today the Court issues a stay that prevents the Standard from taking effect. In our view, the Court’s order seriously misapplies the applicable legal standards. And in so doing, it stymies the Federal Government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID–19 poses to our Nation’s workers. 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. We respectfully dissent.”
- In the case involving the mandate for healthcare workers at Medicare and Medicaid facilities, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the Court’s three liberal justices in upholding the rule. The unsigned majority opinion read in part:
“Congress has authorized the Secretary to impose conditions on the receipt of Medicaid and Medicare funds that “the Secretary finds necessary in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who are furnished services.” COVID–19 is a highly contagious, dangerous, and—especially for Medicare and Medicaid patients—deadly disease. The Secretary of Health and Human Services determined that a COVID–19 vaccine mandate will substantially reduce the likelihood that healthcare workers will contract the virus and transmit it to their patients. He accordingly concluded that a vaccine mandate is “necessary to promote and protect patient health and safety” in the face of the ongoing pandemic.
The rule thus fits neatly within the language of the statute. After all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm. It would be the “very opposite of efficient and effective administration for a facility that is supposed to make people well to make them sick with COVID–19.”
- The dissenting opinion for four conservative justices authored by Justice Clarence Thomas read in part:
“Finally, our precedents confirm that the Government has failed to make a strong showing on the merits. “We expect Congress to speak clearly when authorizing an agency to exercise powers of vast economic and political significance.” And we expect Congress to use “exceedingly clear language if it wishes to significantly alter the balance between state and federal power.” The omnibus rule is undoubtedly significant—it requires millions of healthcare workers to choose between losing their livelihoods and acquiescing to a vaccine they have rejected for months. Vaccine mandates also fall squarely within a State’s police power, and, until now, only rarely have been a tool of the Federal Government. If Congress had wanted to grant CMS authority to impose a nationwide vaccine mandate, and consequently alter the state-federal balance, it would have said so clearly. It did not.
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. Because the Government has not made a strong showing that Congress gave CMS that broad authority, I would deny the stays pending appeal. I respectfully dissent."
- Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Biden’s Vaccine Mandates (1/8/21)
- Supreme Court to Hear Arguments Over Biden’s Vaccine Mandates (12/23/21)
— Eric Revell
(Photo Credit: Stock.com / Inside Creative House)
Supreme Court to Hear Cases Challenging Use of Race as a Factor in College Admissions at Harvard & North CarolinaWhat’s the story? The Supreme Court on Monday announced that it will hear a pair of challenges to the use of race as a factor in
by SCOTUS WATCH | 1.25.22
Supreme Court Hears Arguments Over Biden’s Vaccine MandatesWhat’s the story? The Supreme Court on Friday heard arguments in a pair of cases involving challenges to the Biden
by SCOTUS WATCH | 1.8.22
Supreme Court to Hear Arguments Over Biden’s Vaccine MandatesWhat’s the story? The Supreme Court announced Wednesday that it will fast-track a pair of challenges to the Biden
by SCOTUS WATCH | 12.23.21