SCOTUS Strikes Down Biden Vaccine Mandate for Private Businesses; Upholds Mandate for Healthcare Workers

Photo by Adam Szuscik on Unsplash

The U.S. Supreme Court has ruled against President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate for private employers but in favor of a mandate which required most healthcare workers to be vaccinated against the COVID-19 virus.

There were mixed reactions from opponents of vaccine mandates as the high court put a stop to the Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration requirement that businesses with 100 or more employees and impacted 80 million workers.

The Associated Press reported that the court’s conservative majority determined that the Biden administration had overstepped its bounds by putting the requirement on private businesses in a 6-3 vote.

“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 unsigned opinion stated.

The three dissenting liberal justices, some of whom had been criticized for promulgating inaccurate information about the virus and its impact on the American populace, wrote that federal officials ought to have made the decision rather than the court.

“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 their joint dissent.

In a narrow 5-4 vote, the liberal justices were joined by Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh determined that the federal government did have the right to impose the vaccine requirement on healthcare workers in light of the global pandemic.

“The challenges posed by a global pandemic do not allow a federal agency to exercise power that Congress has not conferred upon it. At the same time, such unprecedented circumstances provide no grounds for limiting the exercise of authorities the agency has long been recognized to have,” the unsigned opinion stated.

In a dissent signed by Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Coney Barrett, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that the government was not convinced that Congress had given it the right “to force healthcare workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo.”

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