The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirement targeting large companies, but allowed a vaccine mandate for some health care workers to go into effect across the country.
The decision is a major blow to Biden’s attempts to use the power of the federal government to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The president stressed the need to vaccinate against the virus for months and eventually decided to use the mandate on large employers as his main tool to persuade reluctant Americans to get their vaccines.
By freezing a lower court opinion that allowed the regulation to go into effect nationwide, the majority sent a clear message that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, tasked with protecting workplace safety, has overstepped its authority. In turn, the judges said a separate agency could issue a rule to protect the health and safety of Medicare and Medicaid patients.
“Although Congress gave the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) uncontested authority to regulate occupational hazards, it did not give that agency the authority to regulate public health more broadly. It required vaccination of 84 million Americans, chosen simply because they worked for employers. They have more than 100 employees, which definitely falls into the latter category,” says the unsigned opinion in the corporate case.
Biden issued a statement praising the ruling for health care workers, but criticized the ruling on companies that would have a much broader impact.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common sense requirements to save employee lives in large companies that are so directly grounded in science and law,” Biden said.
“It is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether their workplaces should be made as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of vaccination,” Biden said.
Read more about the decision here.