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Businesses, Republican states ask Supreme Court to halt Biden vaccine and testing mandate

Dozens of antivax proponents rallied against a NYC mandate requiring all private-sector workers to show proof of two vaccine doses.
Michael Nigro | LightRocket | Getty Images

Business organizations, Republican-led states and other groups have asked the Supreme Court to block the Biden administration from enforcing its sweeping coronavirus vaccine mandate for employers with 100 employees or more.

The emergency requests came three days after a lower court in Cincinnati reinstated the mandate, under which employers must require their workers to either get vaccinated or face weekly testing for Covid.

Those asking the Supreme Court for an injunction include 27 states with Republican attorneys general or governors, private businesses, religious groups, and national industry associations such as the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Associations and the National Federation of Independent Business.

The Biden administration is moving ahead with the mandates — among the government’s most politically polarizing plans to boost inconsistent vaccination rates — as the highly transmissible omicron variant spreads rapidly in the United States as the delta strain also surges.

The appeals to the high court were filed to Brett Kavanaugh, the justice assigned to handle applications from the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit, which covers Ohio. He can refer the cases to the full court to consider.

The petitioners are asking the Supreme Court to once again freeze enforcement of the vaccine mandate. The also ask the justices to agree to take up the case on a fast-track basis even before final rulings have been issued in the lower appeals court.

Kavanaugh has asked the Biden administration to respond to the challengers’ requests by Dec. 30.

On Friday, the federal appeals from the Sixth Circuit said that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, an office within President Joe Biden’s Department of Labor, had authority to issue the mandate.

The emergency rule is “an important step,” the court ruled, “in curtailing the transmission of a deadly virus that has killed over 800,000 people in the United States, brought our healthcare system to its knees, forced businesses to shut down for months on end, and cost hundreds of thousands of workers their jobs.”

That ruling dissolved a prior order from a different appeals court, which froze enforcement of OSHA’s mandate while the lawsuits worked their way through the judicial system.

The Labor Department has pushed back the compliance deadline for the vaccination and testing requirements until Feb. 9 so long as businesses are making good faith efforts to implement the rules. Enforcement of the other requirements, such as a mask mandate for unvaccinated employees working indoors, will start on Jan. 10.

“To account for any uncertainty created by the stay, OSHA is exercising enforcement discretion with respect to the compliance dates,” a Labor Department spokesperson said on Friday.

OSHA implemented the rules under emergency authority established by Congress. The agency, which polices workplace safety, can shortcut the normal rule making process if the Labor secretary determines a new workplace safety standard is need to protect workers from a grave danger. The White House has repeatedly said Covid poses such a danger, pointing to the devastating death toll from the pandemic and the high rates of transmission across the country.

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