On January 7, the United States Supreme court heard oral arguments regarding OSHA’s COVID vaccination mandate for large companies with 100 or more employees or COVID testing mandates. The Supreme Court was being asked to decide if the Biden administration had the power to ask OSHA to enforce such a mandate?

Today, in a historic ruling, and after a week of deliberation, the United States Supreme Court has stopped the Biden administration from enforcing a requirement that employees at large businesses be vaccinated against COVID or undergo weekly testing and wear a mask on the job.

But in a separate, simultaneously released ruling on the administration’s vaccination rules for health-care workers, the court wrote, “We agree with the Government that the [Health and Human Services] Secretary’s rule falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him.”

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Here is a portion of the Supreme Court decision:

OSHA published its vaccine mandate on November 5, 2021. Scores of parties—including States, businesses, trade groups, and nonprofit organizations—filed petitions for review, with at least one petition arriving in each regional Court of Appeals. The cases were consolidated in the Sixth Circuit, which was selected at random pursuant to 28 U. S. C. §2112(a).

Prior to consolidation, however, the Fifth Circuit stayed OSHA’s rule pending further judicial review. BST Holdings, 17 F. 4th 604. It held that the mandate likely ex- ceeded OSHA’s statutory authority, raised separation-of-powers concerns in the absence of a clear delegation from Congress, and was not properly tailored to the risks facing different types of workers and workplaces.

When the consolidated cases arrived at the Sixth Circuit, two things happened. First, many of the petitioners nearly 60 in all—requested initial hearing en banc. Second, OSHA asked the Court of Appeals to vacate the Fifth Cir- cuit’s existing stay. The Sixth Circuit denied the request for initial hearing en banc by an evenly divided 8-to-8 vote. In re MCP No. 165, 20 F. 4th 264 (2021). Chief Judge Sutton dissented, joined by seven of his colleagues. He reasoned that the Secretary’s “broad assertions of administrative power demand unmistakable legislative support,” which he found lacking. A three-judge panel then dissolved the Fifth Circuit’s stay, holding that OSHA’s mandate was likely consistent with the agency’s statutory and constitutional authority. Judge Larsen dis- sented.

Various parties then filed applications in this Court re- questing that we stay OSHA’s emergency standard. We consolidated two of those applications—one from the National Federation of Independent Business, and one from a coalition of States—and heard expedited argument on January 7, 2022.

The Sixth Circuit concluded that a stay of the rule was not justified. We disagree.

Applicants are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Secretary lacked authority to impose the mandate. Administrative agencies are creatures of statute. They accordingly possess only the authority that Congress has provided. The Secretary has ordered 84 million Americans to either obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense. This is no “everyday exercise of federal power.” In re MCP No. 165, 20 F. 4th, at 272 (Sutton, C. J., dissenting). It is instead a significant encroachment into the lives—and health—of a vast number of employees. “We expect Congress to speak clearly when authorizing an agency to exercise powers of vast economic and political significance.” Alabama Assn. of Realtors v. Department of Health and Human Servs., 594 U. S. ___, ___ (2021) (per curiam) (slip op., at 6) (internal quotation marks omitted). There can be little doubt that OSHA’s mandate qualifies as an exercise of such authority.

The question, then, is whether the Act plainly authorizes the Secretary’s mandate. It does not.

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Here is a link to their historic decision: https://www.supremecourt.gov/opinions/21pdf/21a244_hgci.pdf

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