The United States Supreme Court dealt a blow to President Joe Biden on Thursday, blocking his mandate for vaccination or covid screening for employees of large companies.
At the same time, the highest court in the nation validated the vaccination obligation for health workers in institutions that receive federal funds.
Biden declared "disappointed" for the court’s decision to annul its order that companies with more than 100 employees require vaccines against covid-19 or test their workers for the virus.
"I am disappointed that the Supreme Court decided to block common sense requirements … for employees of large companies, which were simply based on both science and law"the Democratic president said in a statement.
Biden welcomed the fact that the Court has left firm the requirement that the health personnel of institutions that receive federal funds be immunized and said that this will affect some 10 million people and "will save lives".
After months of public calls for Americans to get vaccinated against Covid-19, which has killed more than 845,000 people in the United States, Biden announced in September that he would make Covid vaccinations mandatory for large private companies.
Unvaccinated employees would have to submit weekly negative tests and wear masks at work. The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA), a federal agency, gave companies until February 9 to comply with the rules or face fines.
But the six conservative Supreme Court justices ruled that the mandate would represent a "significant invasion on the life and health of a large number of employees".
"Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate workplace hazards, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly."they said.
"Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, singled out simply because they work for companies with more than 100 employees, certainly falls into the latter category.", they added.
The three progressive justices disagreed, noting that the ruling "hampers the federal government’s ability to counter the unprecedented threat posed by covid-19 to our nation’s workers".
– "do no harm" –
The vaccination mandate for health personnel of institutions that receive federal funds was approved in a vote of 5 to 4, with two conservatives, the president of the Supreme Court, John Roberts, and Justice Brett Kavanaugh, joining the progressive justices .
"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", held in the majority opinion.
Vaccination has become a politically divisive issue in the United States, where only 62% of the population is vaccinated.
A coalition of 26 trade associations sued the OSHA regulations, and several Republican-led states challenged the health care worker mandate.
Former Republican President Donald Trump welcomed the court’s ruling on the companies.
"The Supreme Court has ruled, confirming what we all knew: Biden’s disastrous mandates are unconstitutional"Trump said in a statement. "We are proud of the Supreme Court for not backing down. There are no mandates!".
"Freedom wins!"Trump’s former vice president, Mike Pence, tweeted.
Republican Senator Rick Scott of Florida said the Court’s ruling "sends a clear message: Biden is not a king and his gross overreaching of federal power will not be tolerated".
"I had COVID and got vaccinated, but I will NEVER support a vaccination mandate that puts pressure on American workers and kills jobs"Scott said.
In his statement, Biden said it is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether they should require workers "take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated".
He said that the Supreme Court ruling "does not stop me from using my voice as president to advocate for employers to do the right thing to protect the health and economy of Americans".
"We have to keep working together if we want to save lives, keep people working and put this pandemic behind us.", He said.