The U.S. Supreme Court blocked the Biden administration’s vaccine mandate demanding private companies require the COVID-19 shot on Thursday, saving 84 million workers from what some justices dubbed an “unconstitutional” overreach of power by the federal government.
Biden first directed the Occupational Safety and Health Administration to create a rule forcing private businesses with 100 or more employees to get the jab in September 2021. It wasn’t until November of 2021 that OSHA finally posted the mandate in the form of an Emergency Temporary Standard.
After various lawsuits and even a stay issued by the Fifth Circuit, the mandate was still scheduled to go into effect on Jan. 10. Three days after the ETS was implemented, however, the highest court in the land ruled that the federal government had no right to mandate the shot for the private industry.
“The Secretary has ordered 84 million Americans to either obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense. This is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power,'” the per curiam opinion released on Thursday states.
The opinion also notes that Congress never ruled to give OSHA the power to regulate Americans’ daily lives.
“Although COVID–19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most,” the opinion continues, noting OSHA’s lack of “historical precedent” in issuing broad health regulations. “Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.”
In his concurrence, Justice Neil Gorsuch agreed that Congress did not give OSHA the power to “regulate the daily lives and liberties of millions of Americans.”
“The question before us is not how to respond to the pandemic, but who holds the power to do so. The answer is clear: Under the law as it stands today, that power rests with the States and Congress, not OSHA. In saying this much, we do not impugn the intentions behind the agency’s
mandate,” Gorsuch concluded. “Instead, we only discharge our duty to enforce the law’s demands when it comes to the question who may govern the lives of 84 million Americans. Respecting those demands may be trying in times of stress. But if this Court were to abide them only in more tranquil conditions, declarations of emergencies would never end and the liberties our Constitution’s separation of powers seeks to preserve would amount to little.”
Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan dissented.
While private employers will no longer be required to comply with OSHA’s mandate, healthcare employees who work at facilities that accept Medicaid and Medicare funding will be required to comply with the Biden administration’s COVID jab requirements.
That 5-4 decision came after Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh sided with the court’s left-wing justices, arguing the federal government’s Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services is allowed to “maintain and enforce an ‘infection prevention and control program designed … to help prevent the development and transmission of communicable diseases and infections.'” Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, and Amy Barrett dissented.