BREAKING NEWS: Biden’s Labor Department is pulling its COVID vaccine mandate

OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion

Tuesday, Joe Biden’s Department of Labor rescinded the COVID-19 vaccination or testing requirement for U.S. companies employing 100 or more people after the Supreme Court blocked the regulation.

‘The U.S. Department of Labor’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration is withdrawing the vaccination and testing emergency temporary standard issued on Nov. 5, 2021, to protect unvaccinated employees of large employers with 100 or more employees from workplace exposure to coronavirus. The withdrawal is effective January 26, 2022.’

The administration has now ended its controversial campaign to boost vaccination rates after they plateaued over the summer.

OSHA announced in the federal register that although the temporary emergency rule was being removed, it would be retained as a proposal for a permanent rule in the future.

‘OSHA strongly encourages vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace,’ the agency’s statement read.

Coronavirus has killed over 850,000 people in the United States, and its effects continue to weigh on the economy.

In September, President Joe Biden released several regulations aimed at increasing adult vaccination rates, which, according to government figures, are currently at 74 percent.

A number of conservative groups, Republicans, and business organizations challenged the proposed mandates on the basis that there were too many obstacles to overcome in implementing them.

The Supreme Court blocked the OSHA mandate for companies with at least 100 employees earlier this month while allowing federal vaccine requirements for employees working in healthcare facilities.

The third major vaccine rule was implemented under the Biden administration and required federal government contractors to give their employees vaccines. A federal judge blocked that requirement in December, and a U.S. judge blocked a vaccine requirement last week.

The courts generally have found the federal government lacked the authority to mandate vaccination, but state and local governments have been permitted to impose mandates.

The decision handed down by the Supreme Court last Thursday blocked President Joe Biden’s vaccine-or-test mandate requiring private employers with 100 or more employees to comply.

Despite this, the high court did allow a vaccine mandate to go into effect for employees working in health care facilities receiving federal funds.

The conservative majority of the court ruled 6-3 that the administration overstepped its authority by seeking to make the rule binding on large US companies.

It would have affected approximately 84 million people.

Justice Roberts and Kavanaugh joined with liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan, and Stephen Breyer to rule in favor of the mandate on healthcare workers in Medicare and Medicaid-funded settings, resulting in a 5-4 decision.

This is the latest blow in what has been a difficult day for Vice President Biden, who just a few hours ago failed to mobilize Democratic support to scuttle the filibuster and pass voting rights legislation.

In September, Biden announced sweeping measures to get more Americans vaccinated following the drop in the rate of vaccinations over the summer as the Delta variant brought a new wave of infections. If implemented, they would have affected a combined one-third of the US workforce.

OSHA, the federal agency with responsibility for ensuring public and private workplace safety, released details for private sector workplace safety rules in response to the president’s order.

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.’

Currently, the 9 members of the supreme court consists of only three liberal justices, with Kavanaugh, Barrett, and Gorsuch all appointed by the former White House president, Donald Trump.

Barrett and Kavanaugh asked Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer, tough questions.

The court heard testimony from Republican states and business leaders who say Biden’s mandate about businesses with over 100 employees overstepped federal authority.

There was support for the employer rule by three liberal justices. According to Elena Kagan, officials have demonstrated ‘quite clearly that no other policy will prevent sickness and death to anywhere like the degree that this one will.’

Breyer said he was unable to accept that it was in the ‘public interest’ to put that rule on hold. He cited the 750,000 new COVID cases this week that had hospitals busting at the seams.

Nevertheless, Roberts asked Prelogar if Occupational Safety and Health Administration was empowered to introduce the mandate under the 1970 law that established it.

‘That was 50 years ago that you’re saying Congress acted. I don’t think it had COVID in mind.

‘That was almost closer to the Spanish flu than it is to today’s problem,’ he said in reference to the 1918 pandemic.

‘This is something the federal government has never done before,’ Roberts added, casting doubt on the administration’s argument that a half-century-established law, the Occupational Safety and Health Act, confers such broad authority.

As the nation is gripped by the latest wave of infections, triggered by the highly contagious Omicron variant, the court heard arguments.

As the Ohio solicitor general, Benjamin Flowers, asserted that the mandates were formulated when another, more dangerous variant – Delta – was the most prevalent in the state.

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