In a crushing blow to his pandemic response, Biden urged businesses to impose vaccine mandates on their own and urged states to ‘do the right thing’ after the Supreme Court blocked his sweeping rules on private companies.
The high court, however, permitted an employee vaccination mandate at health care centers receiving federal funds to go into effect. Twenty-seven states had petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a stay on the rule while it is battled out in the judicial system.
Biden has suffered a series of setbacks in the past 48 hours, who hasn’t been able to win Democratic support in order to throw out the filibuster and pass voting rights legislation.
According to a Quinnipiac University poll released on Wednesday, his approval rating has plummeted to a dismal 33 percent and the inflation rate has reached its highest point in 40 years after an increase of 7 percent in December.
The conservative justices argue that President Biden’s rule would have overstepped the bounds of the law and put a significant burden on ‘everyday life — and health — of 84 million American workers — a number they claim is very large.
The Supreme Court passed Biden’s mandate for healthcare workers 5-4, with the support of conservative Chief Justice John Roberts and conservative Justice Brett Kavanaugh, as well as liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer.
In a statement on Thursday afternoon, Biden decried the decision on private businesses as ‘disappointing,’ but said that keeping the mandate on healthcare ‘will save lives.’
‘This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden,’ the president claimed.
‘As a result of the Court’s decision, 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.’
Countless companies have announced measures for their employees, including Macy’s and Starbucks. 13 states have banned or limited mandates concerning vaccines, including Texas, Florida, and Arizona.
New York and other Democratic-led states that have their own rules will not be affected and can continue to do so, while states without any rules can decide what to do.
As a result, Republicans triumphantly celebrated the decision as a ‘victory for freedom’ while accusing OSHA of overreaching as an agency usually tasked with investigating asbestos and workplace accidents.
In addition, the decision coincided with new data showing that Omicron may have peaked and that cases could soon fall sharply.
In recent days, the number of daily average cases in New York, New Jersey, New Jersey and Maryland has been declining, according to statistics coming from Johns Hopkins University. Deaths have spiked by 20 per cent in a fortnight to around 1,820 a day, but still sit far below the peaks of winter 2020, even though more COVID infections are being recorded.
Biden’s rival Donald Trump praised the decision and mocked Biden’s campaign-era promise to ‘shut down’ the virus.
‘The Supreme Court has spoken, confirming what we all knew: Biden’s disastrous mandates are unconstitutional,’ Trump said in a statement through his Save America PAC.
‘Biden promised to shut down the virus, not the economy but he has failed miserably on both—and mandates would have further destroyed the economy. We are proud of the Supreme Court for not backing down. No mandates!’
Biden rolled out sweeping measures in September aimed at getting more Americans vaccinated, after the rate of inoculations slumped as the Delta variant brought a new wave of infections over the summer. If implemented, they would have affected a combined one-third of the US workforce.
Following the president’s orders the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the agency which ensures public and private workplace safety on a federal level, rolled out details for its rules for private companies.
In the 6-3 majority opinion, the conservative justices claim the rule ‘draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to COVID–19.’
They go on to argue that COVID-19 is not an ‘occupational hazard’ and can be spread ‘at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather.’
‘That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases,’ the opinion states.
‘Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.’
They called the rule a ‘blunt instrument’ that would improperly place the same workplace guidelines on a ‘lineman’ as a ‘medic.’
In his concurring opinion Justice Neil Gorsuch appeared to take a jab at White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who landed himself and Biden in hot water late last year by retweeting an MSNBC host calling the mandate the ‘ultimate work-around’ to normal Congressional authorities.
Gorsuch said it appeared that OSHA ‘pursued its regulatory initiative only as a legislative ‘work-around.”
In typical fashion Klain took to Twitter to defend his boss’s mandate on Thursday.
‘We didn’t impose ANY vaccine requirements until August, and the one the Court stayed today was not announced until September,’ Klain wrote.
‘These requirements were used only after persuasion, incentives ($100 to get a vax), and final FDA approval were all in place.’
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy blasted Biden’s mandates as ‘unlawful and not based on science’ before promising to continue to oppose the rule for healthcare workers.
‘Today’s ruling blocking OSHA’s vaccine mandate is a welcomed rejection of an arbitrary, aggressive, and authoritarian government. But the fight isn’t over. Republicans will continue to speak up for the many health care workers who have been wrongly fired due to a similar mandate,’ McCarthy said.
‘This is a huge win. The federal government has no place making far-reaching mandates that put an undue burden on businesses across Wyoming,’ Senator Cynthia Lummis wrote on Twitter.
Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s ex-Secretary of State, said Biden’s mandate is ‘unconstitutional. Period.’
‘Grateful the Supreme Court agreed. We must always be vigilant to ensure the federal government does not become too powerful,’ Pompeo said on the platform.
The GOP tweeted: ‘This is a victory for American workers, and the GOP is proud of our role filing one of the lawsuits that halted this mandate.’
Senator Roger Marshall, a licensed physician, celebrated: ‘This is a HUGE victory for all Americans who were forced to fight against Joe Biden’s cruel campaign to punish workers over their medical freedom.’
National Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel said: ‘We are proud to have filed one of the lawsuits challenging the Biden administration and are encouraged by this ruling, but the fight is not over. The Republican National Committee will continue to stand up for businesses and workers.’