The Supreme Court is slated to hold a high-stakes, fast-tracked public session on Friday which will decide the fate of the Biden admin’s tyrannical COVID-19 vaccine mandate affecting nearly 100 million American workers.
The case was pushed up thanks to the Biden administration citing a “grave danger” to public health caused by unvaccinated Americans.
The justices will hear separate oral arguments over federal vaccine and testing rules for larger businesses and vaccine mandates for health care workers at facilities receiving Medicaid and Medicare funding.
Enforcement of the policies – announced in November – has been put on holding pending resolution in the high court. Written rulings could come within a matter of days.
It comes amid a recent surge in reported COVID-19 cases, which health officials say is caused in part by the emerging omicron variant.
Several Republican-led states, business coalitions, religious groups and other opponents have challenged the Biden orders as a federal power grab that intrudes on their autonomy, adding that such enforcements are a violation of the constitution.
The Biden admin, meanwhile, has argued – with no evidence – that unvaccinated Americans are worsening the pandemic and that federal agencies have the power to impose rules protecting the health and safety of all workers.
“The justices put these cases on their calendar for a special argument. They’ve given every indication that they intend to decide the cases expeditiously. And of course, they’re deciding it against the backdrop of a health situation that seems to change by the hour,” said Thomas Dupree, a former Justice Department attorney and a constitutional law expert.
“There’s no question that the Supreme Court is going to engage the fundamental questions of constitutional law and federal law that are at the heart of this case, concerning how broad the executive branch’s authority is to order vaccine mandates and to direct employers, federal employees, and private citizens to take certain steps in response to the pandemic.”
The issue represents not only the current administration’s evolving response to the pandemic but also could serve as a legal template to the regulatory limits of the governments across a range of future disputes over executive authority. Meaning it could set the standard for whether things like the pandemic related lockdowns we saw in 2020 are legally enforceable by either federal or local governments.
A federal appeals court last month had ruled the federal government could enforce its “shot-or-test” rules for business with 100 or more employees, requiring them to be fully vaccinated, get tested weekly and wear masks at all times. That could affect 84 million American workers, and had been scheduled to go into effect this week.
Missouri is among the states challenging the federal rules that would be enforced by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA). Officials there call it an issue of personal choice and individual liberty and say such mandates could lead to closed businesses and worker shortages.
“The federal government is supposed to be one of limited powers. And forcing the vaccine on tens of millions of Americans isn’t one of them,” Eric Schmitt, the state’s GOP attorney general, said. “OSHA is in charge of making sure forklifts beep when they back up, not forcing these kinds of vaccinations.”
Other federal courts have blocked a separate mandate in 24 states. It requires a broad range of health care workers at facilities that participate in the Medicare and Medicaid programs to be fully vaccinated against COVID-19 unless they are eligible for a medical or religious exemption.
That policy would affect an estimated 17 million workers, and was also set to fully go into effect this week.
The Justice Department in its brief with the high court said most such workers have voluntarily been vaccinated, but that the policy needed to apply to all those working in about 76,000 health care facilities, as well as home care providers.
The White House in a statement said, “We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and DOJ will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court.”
The two cases went quickly to the Supreme Court on the limited question of temporary enforcement, which the justices typically would have decided without a full briefing or oral argument. But in an unusual move, the justices scheduled a special sitting in its courtroom, and gave the competing parties little more than two weeks to prepare their public presentations.
Separate appeals over state vaccine and testing mandates have been allowed to be implemented, at least temporarily, after the Supreme Court gave the legal greenlight to rules in New York, New Mexico and Maine.
The limits of federal authority, including the ongoing 2020 presidential “national emergency declaration” imposed by President Trump and extended by Biden, and the separate HHS “public health emergency” – both prompted by the pandemic – will now be tested at the Supreme Court.
As the high court noted more than a century ago, “an emergency may not call into life a power which has never lived,” but such “an emergency may afford a reason for the exertion of a living power already enjoyed.”
Author: Drew Chissek