Biden's Vaccine Mandates in Hands of Supreme Court

Ruling could come within days, or perhaps weeks
By Arden Dier,  Newser Staff
Posted Jan 7, 2022 10:55 AM CST
SCOTUS to Hear Challenges to Biden Mandates
The Supreme Court shown Friday in Washington.   (AP Photo/Evan Vucci)

(Newser) – The Occupational Safety and Health Administration states the federal vaccination or testing requirements for businesses with 100 or more employees, affecting more than 84 million workers, will push 22 million people to get vaccinated, save more than 6,500 lives, and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations owing to COVID-19 over the next six months. Deciding whether that measure and a vaccination mandate for more than 17 million health care workers who treat Medicare and Medicaid patients will be allowed to take effect, however, is now up to the Supreme Court, which will hear arguments from the Biden administration and Republican-led states, businesses, and religious groups suing over the requirements in a special session Friday, per NBC News.

Opponents claim Congress has not authorized the mandates, both of which include religious and certain other exemptions, adding that they will only exacerbate labor shortages. The OSHA rule "will cause immediate shortages at grocery stores, shortages of household and commercial goods, and languishing critical infrastructure failures," a coalition of baking, transportation and chemical companies claim in a legal brief. Employers have also raised concerns about weekly testing protocol for unvaccinated workers, especially at a time when at-home COVID-19 test kits are in short supply. The Justice Department, however, notes Congress gave OSHA the authority to protect workers from grave danger under a 1970 law, per the New York Times.

Efforts to prevent the spread of COVID-19, which has killed more than 800,000 people in the US, arguably falls under that authority. As for the vaccine mandate for health care workers, the administration argues a federal statue gives it sweeping authority to institute health and safety requirements at facilities that receive federal money, per the Times. This requirement, it adds, could save hundreds of thousands of lives each month. The Supreme Court previously upheld vaccine mandates imposed by states, which have police powers to protect public health, but blocked a federal eviction moratorium. Arguments are expected to last at least two hours, with a decision coming in weeks or days, the AP reports. (Read more vaccine mandate stories.)

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