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Supreme Court hears arguments today on Biden's vaccine mandate powers

Supreme Court hears arguments today on Biden's vaccine mandate powers


Supreme Court hears arguments today on Biden's vaccine mandate powers

WASHINGTON — The Supreme Court hears arguments Friday about whether President Joe Biden has the power to threaten millions of Americans with the loss of their jobs if they refuse to take the COVID shots.

Biden's edicts apply to large employers and health care workers. The arguments were expected to last at least two hours.

Legal challenges to the policies from Republican-led states and business groups are in their early stages, but the outcome at the high court probably will determine the fate of vaccine requirements affecting more than 80 million people.

The high court will be weighing in on administration vaccine policies for the first time, although the justices have turned away pleas to block state-level mandates.

But a conservative majority concerned about federal overreach did bring an end to the federal moratorium on evictions put in place because of the pandemic.

Three conservatives, Chief Justice John Roberts and Justices Brett Kavanaugh and Amy Coney Barrett, probably hold the key to the outcome, Marotta said.

They broke with the other justices on the right over state mandates for health-care workers, but joined them to allow evictions to resume.

Both vaccine rules will exacerbate labor shortages and be costly to businesses, opponents said. “People are going to quit. It will make a bad situation worse and they’re not going to come back,” said Karen Harned, executive director of the National Federation of Independent Business’ Small Business Legal Center.

The OSHA rule is supposed to take effect Monday, although the agency has said it would not impose fines on businesses that don't comply before late February.

The vaccine mandate, for its part, applies to virtually all health care staff in the country. It covers health care providers that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding, potentially affecting 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers. The rule has medical and religious exemptions.

Decisions by federal appeals courts in New Orleans and St. Louis have blocked the mandate in about half the states. The administration has said it is taking steps to enforce it in the rest.

Both cases are coming 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.

Because of the pandemic the justices will hear the cases in a courtroom closed to the public. Only the justices, lawyers involved in the cases, court staff and journalists will be present. The public can listen live, however, a change made earlier in the pandemic when the justices for nearly 19 months heard cases via telephone.