Supreme Court blocks Biden vaccine mandate for private firms, allows mandate for healthcare workers

The Biden administration's sweeping attempt to mandate vaccines for Americans took a hit Thursday.
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The Supreme Court
The Supreme Court
(MANDEL NGAN/Getty)

The Supreme Court on Thursday blocked the Biden administration's COVID-19 vaccine mandate that would apply to large U.S. businesses. 

However, the high court allowed a separate policy to take effect that requires vaccinations for most healthcare workers at facilities that receive Medicaid and Medicare funding. 

The court's majority was doubtful that the administration possesses the legal authority to impose the workplace vaccine mandate through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, which would have affected about 80 million employees. The healthcare worker mandate accounts for about 17 million U.S. workers. 

Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh were the only members of the court to find themselves in the majority on both decisions.

All three Democrat-appointed justices dissented from the decision to block the workplace vaccine mandate. Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett dissented from the decision to allow the healthcare worker mandate to take effect.

Both rules had been challenged by Republican-led states, according to the Associated Press. In addition, business groups, among them the Job Creators Network and some of its members, attacked the OSHA emergency regulation as too expensive and likely to cause workers to leave their jobs amid another surge in infections and hospitalizations in the pandemic.

"The Supreme Court has stood up for small businesses by staying this illegal employer vaccine mandate," Job Creators Network CEO Alfredo Ortiz said after the ruling. "The court has confirmed what JCN has long argued: OSHA does not have the authority to implement this sweeping regulation that will burden American businesses, including many small businesses, with new costs and exacerbate the historic labor shortage."

Last Friday, the justices heard nearly four hours of oral arguments on both policies before arriving at their decisions this week.