Tuesday, January 25, 2022

Supreme Court blocks Biden’s vaccine or test rule for large employers

Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration from enforcing its emergency rule requiring workers in large businesses to be vaccinated or routinely tested for COVID-19, a major setback to the president’s national vaccination efforts.

However, the court decided to allow the administration to proceed with the mandatory vaccination of medical workers in federally funded institutions.

The judges’ decision to intervene and strike down one of the vaccine regulations has major public health implications amid the spike in coronavirus cases due to the omicron variant. The White House had hoped that the rule issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration would protect workers from transmission of COVID-19 and encourage those who disagree to get vaccinated.

The judges ruled 6–3 in favor of overturning OSHA’s vaccine or test rule, with six conservatives in the court gaining a majority and three liberals dissenting. They ruled 5–4 in favor of keeping the health care rule, and Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh broke with their conservative counterparts and joined the Liberals.

The OSHA regulation requires employers with at least 100 employees to implement programs that require those employees to show proof of vaccination or test negative for COVID-19 each week. The administration estimates it will cover 84 million workers, mostly in the private sector.

The implementation of the testing provision was to begin on February 9th.

GOP business groups and government officials filed lawsuits aims to block the rule, arguing that it goes beyond OSHA’s legal authority and will hurt the economy by forcing workers to quit their jobs. The lower courts disagreed as to whether this rule fell within OSHA’s purview.

In their ruling, the majority said that opponents of the OSHA rule were likely to win in court, and therefore the judges’ decision prevents the rule from going into effect while the lawsuit continues. In an opinion joined by Justices Clarence Thomas and Samuel Alito, Justice Neil Gorsuch wrote that “Nowhere has Congress clearly given OSHA so much power” to impose such a requirement on employers.

“However, this is exactly what the agency is aiming to do now – regulate not only what happens in the workplace, but also encourage people to have medical procedures that affect their lives outside the workplace,” wrote Gorsuch.

Justice Samuel Alito poses during a group photo of justices at the Supreme Court in Washington, April 23, 2021.

In their dissenting opinion, Judges Stephen Breuer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan said the court should leave such a policy to the discretion of the experts. They argued that, acting “outside its jurisdiction and without legal grounds”, the court was substituting its decision for the decision of government officials who were tasked with responding to the crisis.

“If the OSHA standard has far-reaching implications—it applies to many millions of American workers—then it does little more than reflect the magnitude of the crisis,” the judges wrote. “The standard is responding to a workplace health emergency unprecedented in the agency’s history: an infectious disease that has already killed hundreds of thousands and sickened millions.”

The court held a special session to hear oral arguments on the matter on January 7, expediting the case as enforcement of the rule was about to begin. While the court’s three liberal judges seemed reluctant to undermine public health rules as COVID-19 cases skyrocketed, most conservative judges expressed skepticism about the rule, suggesting that it require an act of Congress.

Alito wondered if OSHA was legally trying to “push the elephant through the mouse hole” by issuing the rule. Chief Justice John Roberts asked “why Congress has no say in this.”

The Biden administration has argued that OSHA has the power to issue a vaccine or test rule under its emergency powers and that a crisis like the COVID-19 pandemic requires such drastic regulation.

Unlike her conservative colleagues, Kagan did not want to replace the court’s decision with that of OSHA’s occupational health experts. “Why on earth should the courts decide this issue?” Kagan asked during the oral argument.

V separate decision on Thursday, the judges allowed another vaccination rule issued by the Biden administration to go into effect. This regulation, issued through the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, will require healthcare facilities receiving Medicare or Medicaid funding to ensure that all of their employees are vaccinated against COVID-19.

The health care rule will cover an estimated 10 million workers in hospitals, long-term care facilities and dialysis centers. Unlike the OSHA rule, it does not allow regular testing instead of vaccination.

In its ruling in the health care case, the majority said the government has the right to “impose conditions” on institutions receiving Medicare and Medicaid funding, including taking steps to protect patients from terminal illness.

“Vaccination requirements are a common feature of health care delivery in America: health care workers across the country are routinely required to be vaccinated against diseases such as hepatitis B, influenza, measles, mumps and rubella,” they wrote.

Biden said in a statement Thursday that the ruling supporting the healthcare rule would “save lives,” including patients, nurses and doctors. He also said he was “disappointed” that the court blocked OSHA’s ruling, saying it included “reasonable life requirements” for employers.

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Nation World News Deskhttps://nationworldnews.com
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