After more than three and a half hours of oral arguments Friday, the Supreme Court heard two cases against President Biden’s vaccine mandates for private businesses with more than 100 employees and healthcare workers that get federal funding.
There seemed to be an ideological split with the more liberal justices making it clear they are siding with the government and the conservative justices being more open to opposing Biden’s mandates.
UPDATE: 12:25 a.m.: Oral arguments ended on the OSHA vaccine mandate and have moved to the healthcare worker vaccine mandate.
UPDATE: 12:10 a.m.: Justice Barrett asked how long OSHA plans to use emergency powers, noting that the COVID pandemic is on its way to becoming an endemic and may last for several more years, if not longer. Prelogar said it is not clear but assured her it is “not a way to bypass notice and comment permanently.”
UPDATE: 11:56 a.m.: Justice Gorsuch ask why vaccines against other potentially deadly illnesses like the flu are not mandated by OSHA, which the solicitor general argued that COVID a unique pandemic and much more dangerous.
UPDATE: 11:50 a.m.: Justice Alito asked about possible vaccine side effects, which Prelogar said are minimal compared to COVID symptoms.
UPDATE: 11:40 a.m.: When Justice Thomas asked if there were other tools OSHA could’ve used instead of a vaccine mandate, the solicitor general said it is the “single most effective way of targeting” serious illness and transmission of COVID.
UPDATE: 11:29 a.m.: Fox News host Shannon Bream said the Supreme Court is likely to go far beyond the expected 2-hour oral arguments for the two COVID vaccine mandate policies.
UPDATE: 11:22 a.m.: Chief Justice Roberts mentioned a tweet by White House Chief of Staff Ronald Klain, which described the OSHA mandate as a “workaround.”
“I mean, this has been referred to the approach as a workaround. And I’m wondering what it is you’re trying to work around?” Roberts asked.
UPDATE: 11:07 a.m.: Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argues in favor of the OSHA mandate, pointing to the necessity of a strong response against the pandemic.
UPDATE: 11:04 a.m.: Sotomayor said Omicron is just as deadly as Delta for the unvaccinated.
UPDATE: 10:46 a.m.: Justice Barrett asked Keller if he is arguing against the mandates beyond vaccines, including mandatory masking. He replied: “OSHA does not have that power.”
UPDATE: 10:41 a.m.: via Fox News: “So far all three liberal justices on the court have made it clear that they would back the federal mandate, and have in fact appeared somewhat astonished by the opposition to it.”
UPDATE 10:34 a.m.: Fox News host Shannon Bream said the Supreme Court’s oral arguments are a “tad feisty.”
UPDATE: 10:28 a.m.: Justice Sotomayor asked what is the difference in the OSHA mandate and “telling businesses there are sparks flying in the workplace and you need to deal with that?”
“Why is a human spewing a virus not like a machine spewing sparks?” Sotomayor asked.
Sotomayor said forcing workers to wear masks is no different than forcing them to get vaccinated: “This is not a vaccine mandate…It’s something totally different.”
UPDATE: 10:23 a.m.: Justice Breyer asked how halting Biden’s mandate would “be in the public interest” while COVID surges and claimed some hospitals are full.
Scott Keller, representing the Natl. Federation of Independent Business, responded: “This is going to cause a massive economic shift in the country, billions and billions of nonrecoverable costs.”
The attorney added: “The question isn’t what this country is going to do about COVID, it’s who gets to decide that.”
UPDATE: 10:15 a.m.: Justice Kagan pushed back against anti-mandate arguments. The attorney responded by saying OSHA could have offered guidance and policies instead of a mandate.
This is a developing story and will be updated.
The Supreme Court is weighing oral arguments on two major cases challenging President Biden’s COVID vaccine mandates.
The justices, all of whom have received their booster shots, will hear separate arguments over federal vaccine and testing rules for businesses with over 100 employees and vaccine mandates for most healthcare workers.
Those challenging the mandates argue the federal government exceeded its authority by imposing requirements not approved by Congress and failed to follow the proper administrative process for issuing emergency regulations.
The state of Ohio and the National Federation of Independent Business are taking the lead in blocking the mandate applying to more than 80 million workers required by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) that employees get vaccinated or be tested weekly.
The states of Louisiana and Missouri are taking the lead on the second policy the Court is hearing, which affects an estimated 10.3 million healthcare workers at about 76,000 facilities that participate in Medicare and Medicaid programs for elderly, disabled, and low-income citizens issued by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services (CMS).