Supreme Court to take up Biden vaccine mandate cases

U.S.

FILE – The Supreme Court is seen on the first day of the new term, in Washington, Oct. 4, 2021 photo. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite, File)

WASHINGTON (NewsNation Now) — The U.S. Supreme Court on Wednesday agreed to take up disputes over the Biden administration’s nationwide vaccine-or-testing COVID-19 mandate for large businesses and a separate vaccine requirement for health care workers.

The brief court order said the court will hear oral arguments Jan. 7 in the two cases. The court delayed a decision on whether to allow the two policies to go into effect nationwide.

The announcement follows several state and local governments across the country reinstating safety measures to deal with the highly transmissible omicron variant. Some retailers are also limiting the number of at-home COVID-19 tests customers can buy due to high demand.

On Tuesday, President Joe Biden pledged a half-billion free COVID test kits to counter the spread of the virus. The rapid tests will be shipped to Americans starting in January.

A three-judge panel of the 6th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in Cincinnati ruled 2-1 Friday that the vaccine or testing regime for workers at larger companies could take effect. The plan requires workers at larger companies to be vaccinated or wear face masks and get tested weekly. The requirement could affect some 84 million U.S. workers.

Republican-led states, conservative organizations and businesses had challenged the requirement after the Occupational Safety and Health Administration published the rule in early November. The rule was to go into effect Jan. 4.

The high court also will hear arguments over a rule published Nov. 5 by the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid that applies to a wide range of health care providers receiving federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. It requires their workers to receive the first dose of a COVID-19 vaccine by Dec. 6 and be fully vaccinated by Jan. 4. It was projected to affect more than 17 million workers in about 76,000 health care facilities as well as home health care providers.

Decisions by the New Orleans-based 5th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals and St. Louis-based 8th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals as well as a federal judge in Texas have the mandate blocked in about half of the states.

In a statement Wednesday evening after the court announced it would hear arguments, the White House defended its policies and said that especially with the rise of the coronavirus’ omicron variant, “it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed.”

“We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and (the Justice Department) will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court,” the statement said.

Also brewing in lower courts are challenges to the Biden administration’s requirement that federal contractors receive COVID-19 vaccinations.

The Associated Press and Reuters contributed to this report.

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