(The Center Square) – President Joe Biden has fought through the courts over his series of vaccine mandates, and even faced bipartisan pushback from Congress, but now the issue will likely be settled by the U.S. Supreme Court.
The nation's highest court will hear the legal challenge to two of Biden’s vaccine mandates Jan. 7, with a ruling expected not long after.
Critics argue the vaccine mandates set a dangerous precedent.
“All Americans should know this: if this OSHA mandate goes into effect, it will not be the last time OSHA attempts to regulate private businesses in novel areas that might have once been unthinkable,” Gene Hamilton with the group America First said. “Vaccines today, what tomorrow? We are immensely proud to partner with [Texas Public Policy Foundation] and other organizations to continue this vital fight.”
The Biden administration has defended its mandate, saying it is necessary to fight the virus.
“Especially as the US faces the highly transmissible Omicron variant, it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said in a statement. “At a critical moment for the nation’s health, the OSHA vaccination or testing rule ensures that employers are protecting their employees and the CMS health care vaccination requirement ensures that providers are protecting their patients. We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and DOJ will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court.”
Early studies have show that while the omicron variant is significantly more transmittable than past variants, it is less severe in terms of the symptoms it causes in most of those infected.
Several governors have helped lead the charge against Biden’s COVID policies, saying the executive has overstepped his constitutional authority and the authority of the states.
“If the Justices apply the Constitution they will strike down those mandates,” Texas Gov. Greg Abbott said after the Supreme Court agreed to take up the case.
Critics point out that Democratic leadership and the Biden administration have said in the past that vaccine mandates should not happen and were beyond the president’s authority.
“No, I don’t think it should be mandatory,” Biden said last year. “I wouldn’t demand it be mandatory but I would do everything in my power, just like I don’t think masks have to be made mandatory nationwide…”
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., made comments along those lines earlier this year.
"So – so here is the thing,” Pelosi said in April. “We cannot require someone to be vaccinated. That's just not what we can do. It is a matter of privacy to know who is or who isn't. I can't go to the Capitol Physician and say, ‘Give me the names of people who aren't vaccinated, so I can go encourage them or make it known to others to encourage them to be vaccinated. So we can't – we can't do that.”
In July of this year, White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki alluded to the question that will now be before the Supreme Court, saying the mandates are not the role of the federal government.
“That’s not the role of the federal government; that is the role that institutions, private-sector entities, and others may take,” Psaki said when asked about vaccine mandates in July.
Republicans pointed to the quick change of direction as hypocrisy and federal overreach.
“One year ago today, Joe Biden promised there would be no vaccine mandate,” Republican National Committee Chair Ronna McDaniel stated on Dec. 4, the one-year anniversary of Biden’s comments.
“He lied,” she added.
States and local governments have had varying requirements on masking and vaccination. Many areas had begun to lessen their restrictions until the omicron variant.
Washington D.C. Mayor Muriel Bowser and Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot announced this week that beginning Jan. 15, many businesses will be required to check for residents’ vaccination cards at indoor facilities, including at restaurants, nightclubs, taverns, coffee shops as well as gyms, movie theaters, concerts, indoor conferences and other venues.
“Beginning on January 15, 2022, businesses shall display prominently, visible to patrons prior to entry, a notice informing patrons that proof of vaccination is required to enter any indoor portion of a covered location,” Bowser’s office said.
These new requirements are one of several that some state and local governments enacted in what they claim are efforts to slow the spread of COVID-19. So far, though, it is the federal mandates that have faced the most legal issues.
The Heritage Foundation is one of several entities to file suit against the Biden administration for its private sector mandate, which requires employers with at least 100 workers to ensure their employees are vaccinated or face hefty fines.
“I wish this lawsuit were unnecessary,” Heritage President Kevin Roberts said. “I wish we had an administration in the White House that respected the Constitution and the rule of law. From the unprecedented border crisis, to the disastrous Afghanistan withdrawal, to now this unlawful COVID vaccine mandate, it is irrevocably clear that this administration will stop at nothing – even harming Americans and our national interests – in pursuit of the most radical policy agenda in American history. Rest assured, we at Heritage are only just beginning to fight back.”
The U.S. Senate has weighed in on the issue as well. A bipartisan group of senators passed a measure to repeal Biden's vaccine mandate for healthcare workers.
“As more of President Biden’s unlawful and authoritarian COVID vaccine mandates are challenged in court, I am proud to join my colleagues on this resolution of disapproval under the CRA to fight for the medical privacy rights of healthcare employees, so many of whom have heroically fought this pandemic from the very beginning,” Sen. Ted Cruz, R-Texas, said.
That measure, though, has little hope of becoming law.
Businesses around the country have rallied in opposition to the mandate as well.
“Small business owners depend on the freedom to decide how to run their business and the Biden Administration’s ETS is an unprecedented intrusion to that freedom,” said Kevin Kuhlman, vice president of Federal Government Relations for the National Federation of Independent Businesses. “The small business economy remains fragile as owners manage several challenges such as staffing shortages and supply chain disruptions while doing their part to end the COVID-19 pandemic. These challenges would be exacerbated by the ETS. NFIB urges Congress to reject this intrusion into the employer/employee relationship and the regulatory overreach of this ETS.”