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January 14, 2022

SCOTUS Ends Mandate for U.S. Businesses

In our system of government, policies like this one are “the responsibility of those chosen by the people through democratic processes.”

In a huge blow to President Joe Biden, the U.S. Supreme Court responded to his COVID overreach the way most Americans had hoped: striking down the largest of his vaccine mandates. By a vote of 6-3, the justices agreed that the president had zero authority to demand that employers of 100 or more employees be vaccinated or bear the weight of routine testing.

In a rebuke to the White House’s COVID strategy, the court’s majority reminded Biden and his Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that “Administrative agencies are creatures of statute. They accordingly possess only the authority that Congress has provided. The Secretary has ordered 84 million Americans to either obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense. This is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power.’ It is instead a significant encroachment into the lives — and health — of a vast number of employees.”

Pointing out that there has “never before” been such a mandate from anyone — Congress included — Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh, Clarence Thomas, Neil Gorsuch, Samuel Alito, and Amy Coney Barrett tried to explain the limits of the government’s power. While OSHA can set “workplace safety standards,” that’s not the same as “broad public health measures,” they wrote. In our system of government, policies like this one are “the responsibility of those chosen by the people through democratic processes.”

Over the objections of Barrett, Thomas, Alito, and Gorsuch, the court did leave the vaccination requirement in place for healthcare workers at any facilities that get Medicaid and Medicare funds by a narrower 5-4 margin. By the White House’s estimate, that means about 17 million Americans will be affected by the stay, which will continue to fuel shortages of healthcare workers as they are fired or quit to avoid the forced vaccine. As far as Justice Thomas is concerned, if it’s unconstitutional in the private sector, then it’s unconstitutional in the health industry too. In a separate dissent, he argued that the administration doesn’t have the authority “to force health care workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo.”

For state leaders across the country, many of whom have been fighting these mandates in court for months, the news came as a huge relief. “Today’s ruling protects our individual rights and states’ rights to pursue the solutions that work best for their citizens,” said our good friend Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost (R), who led a coalition of states in challenging the rule. FRC congratulates him and the other attorneys general on a hard-fought victory for freedom and personal choice!

Mr. Perkins is president of the Family Research Council.

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