The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate which would have required businesses with over 100 employees to require all of their workers to be vaccinated against COVID-19 or submit to weekly testing.
The justices decided, however, that a separate federal policy requiring health-care workers to be vaccinated can move forward.
The decision to halt the vaccine mandate, which was put forth by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), would have required businesses and other organizations with 100 employees or more to be vaccinated or submit to testing, split the court 6-3 with every conservative member of the bench voting down the unconstitutional mandate.
But the other ruling that allows the health-care worker rule to proceed garnered a five justice majority, which saw Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justice Bret Kavanaugh joining their liberal counterparts.
According to Politico, the decision on the business mandate will kick the issue back to the Sixth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals, but it indicates that if the case returns again to the Supreme Court, a majority of Justices will likely side with Republican-led states and businesses that sued to kill the unconstitutional mandate.
Politico reports that the courts conservative members who voted down the OSHA requirement, wrote in an unsigned opinion that the agency had overstepped its authority.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh “lacked authority to impose the mandate,” they said. “Administrative agencies are creatures of statute. They accordingly possess only the authority that Congress has provided.”
There was no basis for “withholding interim relief,” they said, declining to lift a stay on its enforcement.
“We are told by the States and the employers that OSHA’s mandate will force them to incur billions of dollars in unrecoverable compliance costs and will cause hundreds of thousands of employees to leave their jobs,” the judges wrote. “For its part, the Federal Government says that the mandate will save over 6,500 lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. It is not our role to weigh such tradeoffs.”
Dissenting against the ruling, the court’s three liberal judges argued that the decision was disregarding the input of public health experts.
“Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies,” wrote Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor in joint dissension.
On social media, the court’s decision was credited to Senate Minority Leader Mitch McConnell, who led the appointment of all three new Supreme Court Justices during the Trump administration, alongside hundreds of federal judge appointments.