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Supreme Court Not Sold on Biden’s Vaccine Mandate

by Chris Haney
(Photo by Samuel Corum/Getty Images)

On Friday, the Supreme Court seemed hesitant about the Biden administration imposing mandatory requirements for businesses with at least 100 employees. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority has doubts about the administration’s vaccine-or-testing policy.

What You Need To Know For the first time, the Supreme Court is weighing in on two administration vaccine policies related to the Covid-19 pandemic.

  • The court is reviewing if the Biden administration has the authority to impose sweeping vaccine mandates for large companies. Additionally, the justices are reviewing arguments on a separate vaccine mandate that pertains to most health care workers.
  • A majority of the court believes the vaccine mandates are too broad.
  • The Supreme Court has already refused calls to block state-level mandates.

Where It All Began – In November, the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA) implemented strict Covid-19 regulations. The government agency required companies with more than 100 workers to either get vaccinated or take weekly Covid tests.

  • Following OSHA’s new policy, business owners and Republican state attorney generals sued in an attempt to block the requirements. On Friday, the Supreme Court listened to oral arguments that challenge OSHA’s vaccine-or-testing mandates.

Where Do Things Stand – As mentioned, the Supreme Court has a conservative majority that isn’t comfortable with the overarching OSHA requirements. The justices do seem open to requirements for specific high-risk businesses. However, they’re less in favor of sweeping mandates for all businesses.

  • The court has three liberal justices who seem to support OSHA’s employer requirements.
  • The six conservative justices did not share firm stances against the Biden administration’s policy, but did voice several concerns.

Next Steps – The Supreme Court could issue a brief administrative order to suspend the current mandate. The court may issue it today, or later this weekend. A complete written ruling would follow explaining the justices’ decisions.

Supreme Court Justices Share Differing Opinions During Hearing

During today’s Supreme Court proceedings, the justices heard arguments for almost four hours. As expected, there were differing opinions on the matter. Here’s an inside look at some of the court interactions from earlier today.

Chief Justice John Roberts called into question one of the Biden administration’s main arguments. The administration has leaned heavily on the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970. Justice Roberts thinks the law grants wide-ranging authority that shouldn’t apply to their sweeping mandate policy.

“This is something the federal government has never done before,” Chief Justice John Roberts said during the hearing.

In contrast, the few liberal justices in the Supreme Court shared support for the vaccine and testing requirements. Justice Elena Kagan said that “no other policy will prevent sickness and death” the way the OSHA requirement can. In addition, Justice Stephen Breyer highlighted the fact that there are 750,000 new cases across the nation. He also mentioned that hospitals are currently full with Covid patients. Justice Breyer called it “unbelievable” that it would be in the “public interest” to suspend the OSHA mandates.