The high court’s action allowing the health care worker rule to proceed garnered a narrow five-justice majority formed by the court’s three Democratic appointees and two Republican-appointed jurists, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh. Both decisions hinged on the authority of federal regulators. The majority ruled that OSHA — which is part of the Labor Department — appeared to have exceeded the authority it was given by Congress, but not the Department of Health and Human Services in the health care worker case. The court’s action on the business mandate punts that issue back to the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals. But the move signals that if the case returns to the high court, a majority of the justices will likely side with businesses and Republican-led states that sued to squelch the requirement, which would affect an estimated 84 million workers as the Omicron variant is driving up cases and straining health care systems. Still, given the fast-moving nature of the pandemic, the Supreme Court’s interim actions take on added weight and it was unclear if the Biden administration would continue the legal fight. “I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law,” Biden said in a statement on the broader rule. States and employers must now take it upon themselves to implement their own vaccination policies, Biden said. In the meantime, he plans to continue to “advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect Americans’ health and economy.” Because the administration issued the large-business mandate on an emergency basis, it expires after six months – at which point, the Labor Department must either replace it with a permanent standard or let it lapse. With less than four months left on the clock, that doesn’t give the White House much time to pursue a legal victory. Labor Secretary Marty Walsh said: "OSHA will be evaluating all options to ensure workers are protected from this deadly virus.... Regardless of the ultimate outcome of these proceedings, OSHA will do everything in its existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers." The court’s conservative members wrote in an unsigned opinion that Walsh “lacked authority to impose the mandate. Administrative agencies are creatures of statute. They accordingly possess only the authority that Congress has provided.” There was no basis for “withholding interim relief,” they said, declining to lift a stay on its enforcement. “We are told by the States and the employers that OSHA’s mandate will force them to incur billions of dollars in unrecoverable compliance costs and will cause hundreds of thousands of employees to leave their jobs,” they wrote. “For its part, the Federal Government says that the mandate will save over 6,500 lives and prevent hundreds of thousands of hospitalizations. It is not our role to weigh such tradeoffs.” The court’s three liberal justices argued that their colleagues were disregarding the input of public health experts in their decision. “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,” Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor wrote in an unusual joint dissent. In the health care worker case, the court’s majority wrote in an unsigned opinion that they “conclude that the [HHS] 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.” In a dissenting opinion, Justice Clarence Thomas wrote that if Congress had wanted to grant the power "to impose a vaccine mandate across all facility types, it would have done what it has done elsewhere—specifically authorize one." He was joined by Justices Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch and Amy Coney Barrett. Democrats condemned the conservative justices’ decision in the OSHA case as partisan, “The Supreme Court’s decision to block OSHA’s emergency workplace standard undermines a 50-year-old workplace safety law and threatens OSHA’s authority to protect workers during a public health emergency,” House Education and Labor Chair Bobby Scott (D-Va.) said in a statement. “This is exactly the type of so-called judicial activism that Republicans once decried.” Groups like the National Retail Federation — one of more than two dozen tra . . . read the full article here.