Split verdict. 6-3 against OSHA mandate, with liberals dissenting. 5-4 in favor of CMS mandate, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Barrett, dissenting.
Just breaking. Split verdict. 6-3 against OSHA mandate, with liberals dissenting. 5-4 in favor of CMS mandate, Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Barrett, dissenting. (In other words, Roberts and Kavanaugh voted with the liberal bloc on CMS.)
The Supreme Court has stayed the OSHA large employer mandate (6-3, Breyer/Sotomayor/Kagan dissenting):
The Secretary of Labor, acting through the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, recently enacted a vaccine mandate for much of the Nation’s work force. The mandate, which employers must enforce, applies to roughly 84 million workers, covering virtually all employers with at least 100 employees. It requires that covered workers receive a COVID–19 vaccine, and it pre-empts contrary state laws. The only exception is for workers who obtain a medical test each week at their own expense and on their own time, and also wear a mask each workday. OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID–19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.
Many States, businesses, and nonprofit organizations challenged OSHA’s rule in Courts of Appeals across the country. The Fifth Circuit initially entered a stay. But when the cases were consolidated before the Sixth Circuit, that court lifted the stay and allowed OSHA’s rule to take effect. Applicants now seek emergency relief from this Court, arguing that OSHA’s mandate exceeds its statutory authority and is otherwise unlawful. Agreeing that applicants are likely to prevail, we grant their applications and stay the rule.
The heart of the ruling was that
Brandon OSHA did not have the authority:
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. The Act empowers the Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures. See 29 U. S. C. §655(b) (directing the Secretary to set “occupational safety and health standards” (emphasis added)); §655(c)(1) (authorizing the Secretary to impose emergency temporary standards necessary to protect “employees” from grave danger in the workplace). Confirming the point, the Act’s provisions typically speak to hazards that employees face at work. See, e.g., §§651, 653, 657. And no provision of the Act addresses public health more generally, which falls outside of OSHA’s sphere of expertise.
The dissent was, as predicted, PEOPLE ARE GONNA DIE!:
Every day, COVID–19 poses grave dangers to the citizens of this country—and particularly, to its workers. The disease has by now killed almost 1 million Americans and hospitalized almost 4 million. It spreads by person-to-person contact in confined indoor spaces, so causes harm in nearly all workplace environments. And in those environments, more than any others, individuals have little control, and therefore little capacity to mitigate risk. COVID–19, in short, is a menace in work settings. The proof is all around us: Since the disease’s onset, most Americans have seen their workplaces transformed.
So the administrative agency charged with ensuring health and safety in workplaces did what Congress commanded it to: It took action to address COVID–19’s continuing threat in those spaces. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) issued an emergency temporary standard (Standard), requiring either vaccination or masking and testing, to protect American workers. The Standard falls within the core of the agency’s mission: to “protect employees” from “grave danger” that comes from “new hazards” or exposure to harmful agents. 29 U. S. C. §655(c)(1). OSHA estimates—and there is no ground for disputing—that the Standard will save over 6,500 lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations in six months’ time. 86 Fed. Reg. 61408 (2021).
Yet today the Court issues a stay that prevents the Standard from taking effect. In our view, the Court’s order seriously misapplies the applicable legal standards. And in so doing, it stymies the Federal Government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID–19 poses to our Nation’s workers. Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies. We respectfully dissent….
Underlying everything else in this dispute is a single, simple question: Who decides how much protection, and of what kind, American workers need from COVID–19? An agency with expertise in workplace health and safety, acting as Congress and the President authorized? Or a court, lacking any knowledge of how to safeguard workplaces, and insulated from responsibility for any damage it causes?
On the CMS healthcare worker mandate, the Court upheld the mandate (Thomas/Alito/Gorsuch/Barrett dissenting), staying lower court rulings against the mandate:
The Secretary of Health and Human Services administers the Medicare and Medicaid programs, which provide health insurance for millions of elderly, disabled, and lowincome Americans. In November 2021, the Secretary announced that, in order to receive Medicare and Medicaid funding, participating facilities must ensure that their staff—unless exempt for medical or religious reasons—are vaccinated against COVID–19. 86 Fed. Reg. 61555 (2021). Two District Courts enjoined enforcement of the rule, and the Government now asks us to stay those injunctions. Agreeing that it is entitled to such relief, we grant the applications.
The majority held the order was withing the government’s authority under statute:
First, we agree with the Government that the Secretary’s rule falls within the authorities that Congress has conferred upon him.
Congress has authorized the Secretary to impose conditions on the receipt of Medicaid and Medicare funds that “the Secretary finds necessary in the interest of the health and safety of individuals who are furnished services.” 42 U. S. C. §1395x(e)(9).* COVID–19 is a highly contagious, dangerous, and—especially for Medicare and Medicaid patients—deadly disease. The Secretary of Health and Human Services determined that a COVID–19 vaccine mandate will substantially reduce the likelihood that healthcare workers will contract the virus and transmit it to their patients. 86 Fed. Reg. 61557–61558. He accordingly concluded that a vaccine mandate is “necessary to promote and protect patient health and safety” in the face of the ongoing pandemic. Id., at 61613.
The rule thus fits neatly within the language of the statute. After all, ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patients is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm….
We accordingly conclude that the Secretary did not exceed his statutory authority in requiring that, in order to remain eligible for Medicare and Medicaid dollars, the facilities covered by the interim rule must ensure that their employees be vaccinated against COVID–19.
The Thomas dissent, joined by the others, disputed that CMS has this power:
To obtain a stay, the Government must show that there is (1) a reasonable probability that we would grant certiorari; (2) a fair prospect that we would reverse the judgments below; and (3) a likelihood that irreparable harm will result from denying a stay. Hollingsworth v. Perry, 558 U. S. 183, 190 (2010) (per curiam). Because there is no real dispute that this case merits our review, our decision turns primarily on whether the Government can make a “strong showing” that it is likely to succeed on the merits. Nken v. Holder, 556 U. S. 418, 426 (2009). In my view, the Government has not made such a showing here.
The Government begins by invoking two statutory provisions that generally grant CMS authority to promulgate rules to implement Medicare and Medicaid. The first authorizes CMS to “publish such rules and regulations . . . as may be necessary to the efficient administration of the [agency’s] functions.” 42 U. S. C. §1302(a). The second authorizes CMS to “prescribe such regulations as may be necessary to carry out the administration of the insurance programs” under the Medicare Act. §1395hh(a)(1).
The Government has not established that either provision empowers it to impose a vaccine mandate….
These cases are not about the efficacy or importance of COVID–19 vaccines. They are only about whether CMS has the statutory authority to force healthcare workers, by coercing their employers, to undergo a medical procedure they do not want and cannot undo. Because the Government has not made a strong showing that Congress gave CMS that broad authority, I would deny the stays pending appeal. I respectfully dissent.
Alito issued his own dissent, joined by the others:
…. But even if the Federal Government has the authority to require the vaccination of healthcare workers, it did not have the authority to impose that requirement in the way it did. Under our Constitution, the authority to make laws that impose obligations on the American people is conferred on Congress, whose Members are elected by the people. Elected representatives solicit the views of their constituents, listen to their complaints and requests, and make a great effort to accommodate their concerns. Today, however, most federal law is not made by Congress. It comes in the form of rules issued by unelected administrators. In order to give individuals and entities who may be seriously impacted by agency rules at least some opportunity to make their views heard and to have them given serious consideration, Congress has clearly required that agencies comply with basic procedural safeguards….
In these cases, the relevant agency did none of those things, and the Court rewards this extraordinary departure from ordinary principles of administrative procedure. Although today’s ruling means only that the Federal Government is likely to be able to show that this departure is lawful, not that it actually is so, this ruling has an importance that extends beyond the confines of these cases. It may have a lasting effect on Executive Branch behavior.
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