WASHINGTON, D.C. — The U.S. Supreme Court is now deciding if the Biden administration’s sweeping vaccine mandates for millions of workers will be allowed to be enforced.
The Justices are weighing two major initiatives as the Omicron variant leads to a surge in COVID-19 cases around the country.
One mandate requires COVID-19 vaccines or testing for employees at businesses with 100 or more workers, which would affect more than 84 million employees.
The other measure requires healthcare workers at facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid to get vaccinated, which would affect more than 17 million workers.
“OSHA’s economy-wide mandate would cause permanent worker displacement rippling through our national economy which is already experiencing labor shortages and fragile supply lines,” said attorney Scott Keller, who represented business associations challenging the mandates. “This is going to cause a massive economic shift in the country.”
Keller argued the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) exceeded its power when putting the mandates in place.
Several of the left-leaning Justices pushed back in their questioning, pointing to the grave danger posed by the pandemic.
“This is a pandemic in which nearly a million people have died,” said Justice Elena Kagan. “Why isn’t this necessary and grave?”
“Because Justice Kagan, the standard for what would be necessary for this extraordinary use of emergency power is not what is the best way to accomplish that,” said Keller.
“It’s an extraordinary use of emergency power occurring in an extraordinary circumstance,” said Kagan in response.
The conservative-leaning Justices questioned whether the danger from the COVID-19 pandemic justified OSHA using emergency authority.
The Biden administration, meanwhile, argued that OSHA is supposed to set nationwide standards to protect the health and safety of workers.
“COVID-19 is the deadliest pandemic in American history and it poses a particularly acute workplace danger,” said U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar. “Exposure to COVID-19 on the job is the biggest threat to workers in OSHA’s history.”
The Justices also heard arguments about the mandate specifically impacting healthcare workers.
There is no word on when the Supreme Court will announce a decision.
©2022 Cox Media Group