Supreme Court Hears Major Challenges to Biden’s Vaccine Mandates

The Supreme Court will hear arguments on Friday on the legality of two initiatives at the heart of the Biden administration's efforts to address the coronaviruses in the workplace through vaccine mandates.

The states led by Republican officials, businesses, religious groups and others say that Congress has not authorized the measures.

The administration says that it has the authority to take bold action in the face of a lethal pandemic because of workplace safety and health care laws.

More sweeping of the two measures would require a vaccine for more than 84 million workers. The rule would cause 22 million people to bevaccinated and 250,000 hospitalizations, according to the administration.

Workers at hospitals and other health care facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs are required to be vaccined against the coronaviruses. The requirement would affect more than 17 million workers, the administration said, and would save hundreds or even thousands of lives each month.

The Supreme Court is not open to the public, but the justices are taking the bench to hear the arguments in person and the court will provide a live audio feed on its website.

A court spokeswoman said that all justices have received a booster shot.

State vaccine mandates have been upheld by the Supreme Court. The cases before the court are about whether or not Congress has the authority to institute requirements.

The answer will most likely be based on the language of the statutes and whether the administration followed proper procedures in issuing the requirements.

The Labor Department's Occupational Safety and Health Administration requires large employers to have vaccinations or testing.

Employers can give their workers the option to be tested weekly instead of getting the vaccine, but they are not required to pay for the testing. The rule makes an exception for employees with religious objections and those who don't come into close contact with other people at their jobs, like those who work at home or exclusively outdoors.

OSHA can issue emergency rules for workplace safety if it can show that workers are exposed to a grave danger and that the rule is necessary.

A unanimous three-judge panel of the Fifth Circuit in New Orleans ruled in favor of some of the challengers, blocking the measure.

A divided three-judge panel reinstated the measure after the challenges were consolidated.

The record shows that Covid-19 has continued to spread and block the safe return of American workers to their jobs. OSHA must be able to respond to dangers as they evolve.

The judge wrote that the administration probably lacks congressional authority to impose the vaccine requirement.

She wrote that the mandate was aimed at protecting the unvaccinated from their own choices. Unvaccinated people can choose to protect themselves at any time.

The National Federation of Independent Business argued that the regulation did not address a workplace issue and that it exceeded the agency's lawful authority. Lawyers for Ohio and 26 other states told the justices in a recent brief that covid-19 is not an occupational danger.

Agencies that want to issue regulations on major questions with broad economic or political implications must have clear congressional authorization.

The second case concerns a regulation that requires health care workers at facilities that receive federal money under the Medicare and Medicaid programs to bevaccinated against the coronaviruses unless they have a medical or religious exemption.

States led by Republican officials obtained injunctions against the regulation, which covered about half of the nation. The injunctions were refused to stay by two federal appeals courts.

The Atlanta court sided with the Biden administration. The judges wrote that health care workers have been required to get vaccinations for infectious diseases for a long time.

The federal statute gave the Biden administration broad authority to impose regulations on the health and safety of patients at facilities that receive federal money, according to the administration. The secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services has the power to issue regulations to ensure the efficient administration of Medicare and Medicaid programs, as well as to impose requirements to protect the health and safety of patients, according to the statute.

It is difficult to imagine a more paradigmatic health and safety condition than a requirement that workers at hospitals, nursing homes and other medical facilities take the step that most effectively prevents transmission of a deadly virus to vulnerable patients.

Lawyers for Missouri and other states wrote that the vaccine mandate for health care workers threatens to create a crisis in health care facilities in rural America.

They wrote that the mandate would force millions of workers to choose between losing their jobs or complying with an illegal federal mandate. Last year's health care heroes would have become unemployed if the judge had not issued an injunction.