Today, the Supreme Court blocked President Biden's Covid vaccine mandate or testing requirement for large businesses.
The federal Covid vaccine mandate, which has been hotly disputed, has been struck down by the Supreme Court. The intended rule required Covid vaccination or regular testing plus face mask for those employed in businesses with 100 or more employees. Religious exemptions were permitted. The mandate would impact about 80 million people.
The majority ruling sends a message that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) has overstepped its authority with the vaccine mandate. However, the justices did say that a separate agency could issue a rule to protect the health and safety of Medicare and Medicaid patients.
The unsigned opinion states, "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."
Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan issued strong dissent: "When we are wise, we know not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere Congress marked out and under Presidential control, to deal with emergency conditions," they wrote. "Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible."
SCOTUS did allow a nationwide Covid vaccine mandate for certain health care workers at hospitals, nursing homes, and other facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs. That policy will affect more than 10.3 million health care workers and does permit some religious and medical exemptions.
Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett, dissented.
"Neither CMS nor the Court articulates a limiting principle for why, after an un-explained and unjustified delay, an agency can regulate first and listen later, and then put more than 10 million healthcare workers to the choice of their jobs or an irreversible medical treatment," Alito wrote.