Nine United State’s Supreme Court justices including John Roberts, the Chief Justice of the United States on Friday, heard an Oral Argument to deliberate the fate of President Joe Biden administration’s vaccine mandates.
The hearing of Biden’s Vaccine Mandate is coming at a time when there is a surge in the number of Covid-19 cases recorded in the United States due to the Omicron variant.
According to Reuters, the Supreme Court conservative justices who hold a 6-3 majority, suggested that the 1970 law that created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) did not authorize this type of broad emergency action.
What happened in court
At the resumed hearing on Friday, the vaccine-or-testing requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees was faced with more skepticism than the vaccination requirement for healthcare workers.
The challengers which included religious entities, Republican-led U.S states and business groups prayed the court to block the vaccine mandate policy before the administration begins enforcement on Monday.
While the Biden administration argued that the vaccine mandates are important for the safety of workers and health care providers during the pandemic, Scott Keller, a former solicitor general of Texas, argued that the OSHA mandate will likely harm the U.S. workforce if employees quit over these vaccine mandates.
Keller, who argued on behalf of business groups, contended that both vaccine rules would exacerbate labor shortages and be costly to businesses.
According to Reuters, Roberts and Kavanaugh appeared more sympathetic to the Biden administration’s arguments regarding the healthcare facilities mandate issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS), the agency responsible for administering those programs.
The two justices alongside Amy Coney Barrett have been more receptive to state-level vaccine requirements than the other three conservative justices. Justice Kavanaugh told the court that private healthcare providers did not challenge the mandate that states are contesting.
Arguing on the Merit of the OSHA mandate, Elizabeth Prelogar, the current U.S Solicitor General, told the court to reject the argument that the Agency is powerless to address the grave dangers. Prelogar told the justices that Covid-19 “is the deadliest pandemic in American history and it poses a unique workplace danger”.
Chief Justice Roberts doubted the fact that a half-century established law confers such authority on the administration. He said “That was 50 years ago that you’re saying Congress acted. I don’t think it had COVID in mind. That was almost closer to the Spanish flu than it is to today’s problem.”
“This is something the federal government has never done before,” he added.
Justice Elena Kagan, the previous solicitor general said officials have shown “quite clearly that no other policy will prevent sickness and death to anywhere like the degree that this one will”.
Justice Stephen Breyer, who said that on Thursday 750,000 new cases of Covid was recorded said he found it “unbelievable to be in the public interest to stop these vaccinations.”
While Justice Coney Barrett and Justice Brett Kavanaugh had tough questions for the solicitor general, who is the administration’s top supreme court lawyer, The court’s three liberal justices suggested support for the employer rule.
Neil Gorsuch, an associate justice of the Supreme Court, seemed skeptical of the entire policy. He questioned whether the CMS has the authority to issue a vaccine regulation because such action affects an employer’s staffing decisions, which Congress has said the agency could not do as part of its Medicaid and Medicare funding requirements. He said, “you cannot use the money as a weapon to control these things.”
While some justices raised the possibility of the court issuing a temporary stay blocking the OSHA rule pending the determination of the matter. The Conservatives majority of justices were not convinced with Biden’s vaccine-or-testing requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees.
According to The Guardian, the Covid circumstances did not appear to outweigh the views of the court’s six conservatives that the administration overstepped its authority in its vaccine-or-testing requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees.
In case you missed it
Nairametrics reported that the Supreme Court was going to hear two separate cases today on an emergency application, challenging the vaccine mandates of President Biden.
What you should know
- The two motions heard separately included a vaccine-or-testing mandate for large employers and a vaccination requirement for certain healthcare workers.
- OSHA has estimated that its emergency regulation will save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over six months.
- Nearly 207 million Americans, 62.3% of the population, are fully vaccinated, and more than a third of those have received a booster shot, including the nine justices of the Supreme Court.
- Biden’s administration asked the justices to lift lower court orders blocking the CMS mandate in half the 50 states of the United States.