The U.S. Supreme Court meets Friday in special session to hear state challenges to President Joseph R. Biden’s (D) vaccine mandates. Alabama is one of several states challenging the President’s orders that Americans receive the COVID-19 vaccine if they want to remain employed.
Mandate proponents argue that the public health of the nation as a whole outweighs any individual liberty issues. Opponents of the mandates argue that nothing in the U.S. Constitution gives the government the power to make individual health decisions for all Americans.
The vaccine policies being debated today affect an estimated 100 million American workers.
The Biden Administration is arguing that its mandates for a vaccine-or-test requirement for workers at employers with 100 employees or more are legal because Congress delegated that authority to the executive branch when it created the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA).
The Administration is also arguing that Congress delegated the power to regulate Medicaid and Medicare so the President’s order that all healthcare providers that receive federal Medicaid and Medicare funds must require that all of their employees be vaccinated against COVID-19 is within the scope of the Administration’s powers.
The arguments will stream live on The Washington Post’s homepage, starting at 9 a.m.
White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki told reporters on Thursday that the mandates are “critical to our nation’s COVID-19 response.”
“Unvaccinated Americans continue to face a real threat of severe illness and death — including from Omicron,” Psaki said in a statement. “The need and the urgency for these policies is greater than ever, and we are confident in the legal authority for both policies.”
The Court will not decide the final outcome of the mandate lawsuits at this time, but rather if the mandates should be stayed pending the outcome of those four lawsuits – though if the stays are granted that would strongly signal that the states will ultimately prevail in the court system.
Matt Clark is the President of the Alabama Center for Law and Liberty (ACLL).
"Both of them are vaccine-mandate cases," Clark said "One of them is the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandate, and the other is the mandate regarding Medicare and Medicaid."
The two OSHA cases are the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB) et al. versus the Department of Labor, OSHA, et al. and Ohio et al. versus the Department of Labor, OSHA, et al. Those two cases are consolidated into one challenge for the Court to hear.
"I'm in on the OSHA case," said Clark. "About 14 of us asked the Supreme Court for a stay, and the Court set those applications for oral argument. One of them is the NFIB case, and the other is the one brought by a bunch of Republican AG's. By selecting those two, it appears that the Court wants to focus on the impact on businesses and federalism. I would be very surprised if the Court does not step in and stay the OSHA vaccine mandate."
The other case to be heard by the Court is Becerra, Secretary of Health and Human Services et al. versus Louisiana et al. That case is combined with Biden, President of the United States, et al. versus Missouri et al. That case deals with the demands by the Biden Administration that every medical provider who receives Medicare or Medicaid payments require that all of their employees receive the COVID-19 vaccine.
"The Biden Administration lost in the lower courts and are asking the Supreme Court to step in,” Clark said. “It looks like the Court wants to consider both the OSHA mandate and the medical mandate at once by setting them for oral arguments on the same day."
Tens of thousands of Alabama workers are facing possible termination if the Supreme Court does not stay the mandates.
(Original reporting by the Washington Post contributed to this report.)