OPINION: This article contains commentary which may reflect the author's opinion
As COVID cases increase around the nation, the Supreme Court has fast-tracked cases over the Biden administration’s moves to boost vaccinations. On Wednesday, the justices announced that they will hear arguments on Jan. 7th on two of Biden’s policies: “a vaccine-or-test mandate for workers at large employers, and a vaccine mandate for health care workers at facilities that receive federal funding,” Scotusblog reported.
The cases are being heard on an emergency basis. Justices will decide whether the Biden administration will be allowed to enforce the vaccine mandates while they are being challenged in court.
But the justices’ views on whether to grant emergency relief will likely be influenced by their views on the merits of the underlying challenges themselves.
The Occupational Safety and Health Administration issued the vaccine-or-test mandate on Nov. 5. It requires all employers with more than 100 employees to mandate that those employees be either fully vaccinated against COVID-19 or be tested weekly and wear masks at work. Several challenges to the rule were filed around the country, by (among others) business groups, religious groups, and Republican-led states, arguing that the mandate exceeds OSHA’s authority. The U.S. Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit temporarily put the mandate on hold in November, but the challenges were consolidated in the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit, which reinstated the mandate last week.
Republican-led states, businesses, and opponents of Biden have kept the mandates tied up in court for several weeks as federal courts ordered them to not be enforced while arguments for and against are being heard, according to Fox News.
While courts have generally upheld the rights of private businesses and schools to implement their own vaccine mandates, the lawsuits over Biden’s rules challenge whether the federal government has the authority to force employers and other entities to require vaccinations.
“The reasoning across the cases is basically the same, which is that these statutes don’t give the president or the agency in question the authority to issue the mandates,” said Gregory Magarian, a constitutional law professor at Washington University in St. Louis.
This week, Republican lawmakers filed a “friend of the court” brief to support Navy SEALs who are suing the Biden admin over the vaccine mandate for the military, according to Conservative Brief. Ted Cruz posted on Twitter that:
My colleagues and I filed an amicus brief in U.S. Navy Seals v. Biden in support of 26 service members with religious objections to Biden’s vaccine mandate. Religious freedom is fundamental to every American’s liberty.
My colleagues and I filed an amicus brief in U.S. Navy Seals v. Biden in support of 26 service members with religious objections to Biden's vaccine mandate.
Religious freedom is fundamental to every American’s liberty.https://t.co/wlcpHoVLW9
— Senator Ted Cruz (@SenTedCruz) December 20, 2021
Fox News added:
Biden’s employer mandate was dealt its largest blow by U.S. District Court for the Western District of Louisiana Judge Terry Doughty, who ruled the administration does not have the authority to bypass Congress on the issue and halted enforcement nationwide.
“If the executive branch is allowed to usurp the power of the legislative branch to make laws, two of the three powers conferred by our Constitution would be in the same hands,” he wrote. “If human nature and history teach anything, it is that civil liberties face grave risks when governments proclaim indefinite states of emergency.”
The Biden administration is defending the use of mandates, though, with one White House official stating that “We know vaccination requirements work, The federal government, the country’s largest employer, has successfully implemented its requirement in a way that has boosted vaccinations and avoids any disruptions to operations.”
The Supreme Court has set a December 30th deadline for responses for both cases.