Biden asks Supreme Court to uphold vax mandate for businesses

The White House pleaded with the Supreme Court Thursday to leave intact its vaccine mandate for businesses with 100 or more employees, arguing the federal government has the authority to set the vax-or-test rule because the Omicron variant-fueled spike in COVID-19 cases represents a “grave” danger to workers.​

“Delaying enforcement of the [mandate] thus would likely cost many lives per day, in addition to large numbers of hospitalizations and other serious health effects,” Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar wrote in the Biden administration’s filing​. “That is a confluence of harms of the highest order.”

Prelogar added that there is “extensive evidence of ‘workplace transmission’” of coronavirus.

“With the reopening of workplaces, the emergence of highly transmissible variants (both Delta and Omicron), and the rise of COVID fatigue, the danger to workers is not just grave, but worsening,” she claimed.

Because of the dire threat to public health, Prelogar said the Occupational Safety and Health Administration must act to implement the mandate.

The Cincinnati-based 6th US Circuit Court of Appeals reinstated President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate earlier in December.
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“The standard falls squarely within that grant of authority,” she wrote​.​ “SARS-CoV-2 [COVID-19] is both a physically harmful agent and a new hazard; indeed, it has killed more than 800,000 individuals and made millions more seriously ill in the United States alone.”

The justices are scheduled to hear arguments on Jan. 7 in the case against the mandate, which was initially brought in November by a group of trade associations representing trucking and retail industries and independent businesses.


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Republican-led states and conservative groups have also sued to stop the mandate, claiming the requirement would cause “irreparable harm of losing employees, incurring substantial and unrecoverable compliance costs, and worsening already fragile supply chains and labor markets.”

A sign on the door of a coffee shop in Manhattan ask for proof of vaccination and the wearing of a mask on the day that a mask mandate went into effect in New York on December 13, 2021 in New York City.
Republican states blasted President Biden’s vaccine mandate for causing “unrecoverable compliance costs.”
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The administration’s mandate requires large businesses to ensure that staffers are vaccinated or undergo weekly testing and wear masks. According to the White House, the rule would affect companies who employ approximately 84 million Americans.

OSHA has estimated that the requirement will save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations over the next six months, but the agency has also said it will not put the requirement into effect before February due to legal challenges.

A group of 183 Republican members of Congress also filed a “friend of the court” brief on Thursday, claiming the justices must halt the mandate because OSHA does not have the authority to implement it.

People walk through Sky Harbor International Airport in Phoenix where new COVID-19 cases are down but health experts warn cases may rise with the introduction of the omicron strain on December 18, 2021 in Phoenix, Arizona.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration claims President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandate could prevent 250,000 hospitalizations from COVID-19.
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“​[M]andatory vaccinations do not stop individuals from contracting and transmitting COVID-19,” the GOP filing argued. “Vaccinated workers can still contract and transmit COVID-19, including the new Omicron variant​.

“​Given that fact, imposing masking and testing restrictions only on unvaccinated workers makes no sense because all workers regardless of vaccination status remain potential carriers and transmitters of the virus​,” it continues.​

The Republicans further argued that OSHA was never intended to become the “health police.”​

People pass a sign that reads "Face Mask Required" in a mall as COVID-19 cases surge in the city on December 21, 2021 in Washington, DC.
President Biden’s workplace vaccine mandate would affect about 84 million Americans.
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“​Private healthcare decisions are far afield from federal workplace-safety regimes,” they claimed. “To allow OSHA the authority to control such decisions would remove any semblance of an intelligible principle in the delegated authority that Congress has given the agency​.”​​