(CNN)The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine and testing requirement aimed at large businesses, but it allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect nationwide.The decision is a huge hit to Biden’s attempts to use the power of the federal government to fight the Covid-19 pandemic.
The President has emphasized the necessity of getting vaccinated against the virus for months and eventually decided to use the mandate on large employers as his main vehicle for convincing hesitant Americans to get their shots.
In freezing a lower court opinion that allowed the regulation to go into effect nationwide, the majority sent a clear message the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, charged with protecting workplace safety, overstepped its authority. In contrast, the justices said that a separate agency could issue a rule to protect the health and safety of Medicare and Medicaid patients.
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” the unsigned opinion in the businesses case says.Biden issued a statement praising the ruling on health care workers but criticized the ruling on businesses that will have the much wider effect.
“I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” Biden said.Moving forward, Biden said “it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.”
“When we are wise, we know not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere Congress marked out and under Presidential control, to deal with emergency conditions,” they wrote. “Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”The rule would impact some 80 million individuals and requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. There are exceptions for those with religious objections.The agency said that it had the authority to act under an emergency temporary standard meant to protect employees if they are exposed to a “grave danger.”