Today, the Supreme Court (Court) blocked the Biden administration’s COVID-19 vaccine or testing rules for large private employers, based on the argument that Congress has not given the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) the power to enact such a mandate. Specifically, the Court stated:
“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.”
Technically, the Court wasn’t considering the full merits of the administration’s mandate. Instead, the justices heard the case on an emergency basis to decide whether the regulations could go into effect right now while more detailed litigation continued in the lower court. However, the Court has tipped its hand on how they would rule, should the case make its way back to them on the merits, simply stating, “applicants are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Secretary lacked authority to impose the mandate.” Should, for some reason, the Sixth Circuit disagree with the Court and find in favor of OSHA, the stay preventing the mandate from taking effect would remain in place until the Court could render its verdict on the matter.
In its other decisions, the Court did give the government more latitude in the health care industry, allowing it to impose a vaccine mandate for more than 10 million health care workers whose facilities participate in Medicare and Medicaid.
In allowing the vaccine mandate for health care workers, conservatives Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh joined the three liberals to form a 5-4 majority, allowing that requirement to take effect nationwide.