Supreme Court blocks COVID-19 vaccine-or-testing mandate for workplaces but lets medical rule stand

The Supreme Court on Thursday halted enforcement of one of President Joe Biden’s signature efforts to combat COVID-19, ruling that his administration doesn’t have the authority to impose sweeping vaccine-or-testing requirements for employers that would have covered tens of millions of Americans.

The unsigned opinion, which came days after the justices heard arguments in the emergency appeal, marked the second time the nation’s highest court had unwound a key pandemic policy of the Biden administration, once again concluding that federal officials had exceeded the power given to them by Congress. The court in August blocked Biden’s eviction moratorium, ruling that it, too, amounted to government overreach.

“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. “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 decision drew a dissent from the court’s three liberal justices.

“In our view, the court’s order seriously misapplies the applicable legal standards,” Associate Justice Stephen Breyer wrote in an opinion joined by Associate Justice Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan.  “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.”

The court in a second unsigned opinion permitted another vaccine mandate on people employed at health care facilities that receive federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid. That measure, which takes effect this month, is estimated to affect 10 million workers.

“The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a…

 

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