- President Joe Biden is betting that his unprecedented coronavirus vaccine mandate will prevail against a flurry of lawsuits it aims to strike.
- The legal battle is likely to reach the Supreme Court.
- One expert told CNBC that the vaccination rules are “in unprecedented scope” but are built on a broader framework of legal public health and safety regulations.
President Joe Biden is betting that his unprecedented coronavirus vaccine mandate will prevail against a flurry of lawsuits it aims to strike. The legal battle is expected to reach the Supreme Court.
Biden believes the mandate, which would require businesses with 100 or more employees to vaccinate their employees or face routine testing by January 4, would cover nearly two-thirds of all US workers. And Accelerate the end of the coronavirus pandemic, The White House says legal precedent empowers it to act to respond to the “grave threat” posed by the pandemic.
Republican attorney generals and several private businesses and industry groups have filed suit in at least 26 states, arguing that the mandate is an unconstitutional flex of government power over Americans’ lives.
The conflict is the latest example of the deep-seated ideological divide that has defined the United States’ response to the COVID pandemic, where the push to crush the virus has often clashed with efforts to protect individual liberties.
vaccination rules Dorit Rees, a law professor who focuses on vaccine policies at the University of California College of Law’s Hastings, said they are “unprecedented in the field” but built on a broad framework of legal public health and safety regulations.
“We already have very aggressive work regulations. So it’s broader than in the past, but it’s also following a long tradition of regulating the workplace,” Rees said.
A few days after the rules were published, the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit considered One of the most conservative appellate courts In the country, Republicans agreed to freeze Biden’s vaccine mandate pending a review with the AG.
The 5th Circuit in Louisiana overturned the court order, which delays the mandate taking effect during the review of the rule. The court said the attorney general’s arguments “give reason to believe that there are serious statutory and constitutional issues with the mandate.” All lawsuits seeking to overturn the rule were consolidated into one case Tuesday and assigned at random to the conservative-leaning 6th Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati, Ohio.
David Vladeck, a law professor at Georgetown University, said there is a “high probability” that the case will end up before the Supreme Court, which is significantly more conservative after former President Donald Trump nominated three justices to the nine-seat bench. has gone.
“There are judges on the court who want to rein in the administrative situation and this is a case in which those concerns are likely to come to the fore,” Vladeck told CNBC.
Even if it escapes the courts, enforcement of the mandate will not begin until early next year. Despite an appellate court injunction, the White House and the US Chamber of Commerce are encouraging employers to begin implementing the wax-or-test rules immediately.
State and local governments as well as private businesses have been sued over a wide range of social distancing rules during the pandemic that are intended to reduce the spread of the virus.
Overall, courts have been mostly respectful of public health officials enforcing rules regarding restrictions on religious services, Rees told CNBC.
Examples abound at all levels of the judiciary. For example, last week, a federal judge in Texas upheld United Airlines’ strict vaccine policy for its employees. in September, Another US district judge ruled That a private health care provider near Cincinnati, Ohio may require workers to either get vaccinated or risk losing their jobs.
Late last month, a federal appeals court New York’s vaccine mandate for health care workers approved, That ruling blocked a lower court move to temporarily mandate what it deemed an insufficient religious exemption.
The debate over vaccine mandates has drawn attention to a pair of Supreme Court decisions dating back to the early 20th century – in particular The case of 1905, Jacobsen v. Massachusetts.
That case centered on the challenge of the smallpox vaccine mandate in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which the city deemed “essential for the speedy destruction of the disease”. The court sided with the state in a 7-2 decision, holding that the vaccination rule was needed to ensure public health and safety.
The court upheld that decision after 17 years Reproduction V. Raja, When it rejected a bid to disregard public school vaccination requirements in San Antonio, Texas.
But judges can’t believe that those cases, which pertain to state-imposed rules, will provide the constitutional basis for supporting Biden’s more comprehensive federal mandate.
Judge Kurt Engelhardt of the US Court of Appeals for the 5th Circuit blocked the mandate from taking effect in his ruling last week, citing Jacobsen and Zucht.
“It falls within the police power of states to mandate that a person receives a vaccine or undergo testing,” said Engelhardt, a Trump appointee.
“Commerce Segment Power” [of the U.S. Constitution] may be pervasive, but it does not give Congress the power to regulate non-economic passivity traditionally within the police power of states,” the judge said.
Rees said he doubts the legal battle will hinge on those cases. “I think smart litigants won’t make this a battlefield,” she said. “That’s not where I see the heart of the fight.”
Arguments against Biden’s vaccine mandate can take many forms, Rees said, but “if they want to persuade the courts to strike these, they have to thread the needle without diluting existing workplace rules.” “.
He noted that such federal rules Been legal for over 50 years — since the creation of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, or OSHA — and the courts have been conservative about undoing them.
However, the OSHA case is unique because the agency invoked its little-used emergency authorization. OSHA can expedite rule-making if the Secretary of Labor determines that a safety standard is necessary to protect workers from serious danger.
Before the pandemic, the agency had not issued an emergency standard since 1983. Courts have halted or reversed four of the 10 emergency standards issued by OSHA prior to vaccination requirements. The fifth was partially evacuated.
“Vaccination is the best way out of this pandemic. And while I would very much like that the necessities not become necessary, many people remain unconvinced of how to get out of this pandemic for good,” Biden said. Biden said. in a statement on the mandate.