Supreme Court appears skeptical of Biden’s workplace vaccine mandate

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The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical today of the Biden administration’s authority to impose a vaccine-or-testing requirement on the nation’s large employers. The court seemed more open to a separate vaccine mandate for most health care workers.

The arguments, delivered by Louisiana Attorney General Jeff Landry, in the two cases come at a time of spiking coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant, and the decision today by seven justices to wear masks for the first time while hearing arguments reflected the new phase of the pandemic.  

But the COVID circumstances did not appear to outweigh the views of the court’s six conservatives that the administration overstepped its authority in its vaccine-or-testing requirement for businesses with at least 100 employees. 

Justices John Roberts, Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett probably hold the key to the outcome in both cases, as they have been more receptive to state-level vaccine requirements than the other three conservative justices. Barrett and Kavanaugh also had tough questions for Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar, the administration’s top Supreme Court lawyer.

Both the vaccination cases came to the court on an emergency basis, and the court took the unusual step of scheduling arguments rather than just ruling on briefs submitted by the parties. Unlike in other cases the court hears, a decision from the justices could come in weeks if not days. 

As the Supreme Court debates the two federal mandates today, the Louisiana Supreme Court issued a pair of rulings today that uphold Ochsner Health’s employee COVID-19 vaccine mandate.  Read the full story about the federal cases here and about the Ochsner ruling here.