(CNN) — The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine or testing requirement aimed at large businesses, but it allowed a vaccine mandate for certain health care workers to go into effect nationwide.
The ruling blocking the rule for large businesses was based on the argument that Congress has not given the Occupational Safety and Health Administration the power to enact such a mandate.
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly. Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls in the latter category,” the unsigned opinion says.
Liberal Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor, and Elena Kagan issued a blistering dissent.
“When we are wise, we know not to displace the judgments of experts, acting within the sphere Congress marked out and under Presidential control, to deal with emergency conditions,” they wrote. “Today, we are not wise. In the face of a still-raging pandemic, this Court tells the agency charged with protecting worker safety that it may not do so in all the workplaces needed. As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible.”
The rule would impact some 80 million individuals and requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. There are exceptions for those with religious objections.
The agency said that it had the authority to act under an emergency temporary standard meant to protect employees if they are exposed to a “grave danger.”
The Biden administration defended the regulation and argued that the nation is facing a pandemic “that is sickening and killing thousands of workers around the country” and that any delay in implementing the requirement to get a vaccine or submit to regular testing “will result in unnecessary illness, hospitalizations and death.”
During oral arguments, the Biden administration had asked that, at the very least, if the court says employers can’t require the employees to get the vaccine, it should leave in place an alternate requirement for masking and frequent testing. The majority rejected that request Thursday.