Biden suffers a sensitive defeat: Supreme justices block vaccination or testing requirement

As of Friday, 63% of the 331 million Americans had been fully vaccinated.Beld Mandel Ngan / AFP

The rejection by top judges of a significant part of its corona policy could not have come at a worse time. Biden’s attempt to salvage two election laws also failed miserably. After a visit to Congress and a meeting with two key Democratic senators whose support he needs, it emerged Thursday that passing the bills in the Senate is virtually out of the question.

Republicans and former President Donald Trump immediately declared victory after the court overturned Biden’s controversial vaccination measure by a six-to-three vote. At the end of last year, the government decided that employees of companies with more than 100 employees must be vaccinated or tested every week. About 84 million Americans, two-thirds of all workers, were affected by the measure.

But like 27 Republican states and business organizations that challenged the ruling, the court ruled the White House went overboard. In recent months, the lower courts could not agree on the acceptability of the vaccination or testing requirement. However, according to the highest judges, the federal department of labor and health OSHA has no authority to impose such a drastic measure.


“This is significant harm to the life and health of a large number of employees,” the majority of the court said. “While Congress unquestionably gave OSHA authority to regulate occupational hazards, the agency was not given authority to regulate public health generally.”

All of the conservative justices, three of whom were appointed by Trump, turned against the White House. Congressional Republicans were also furious that Biden wanted to force many Americans to get vaccinated. “The Supreme Court upheld what we all already knew: Biden’s disastrous vaccination requirement is unconstitutional,” said Trump, who had addressed the court to torpedo the ruling.

A small windfall for Biden was that the court dropped another vaccination measure. About 17 million hospital workers who receive money from the federal government need to be vaccinated. They do not have the possibility of being tested as an alternative. Last year, Biden also imposed a vaccination requirement on all federal government personnel. He hoped with all these measures to significantly increase the vaccination rate. As of Friday, 63% of the 331 million Americans had been fully vaccinated.


The president said he was disappointed that the judges had “chosen to block the workers’ vital demands”. He called on states and companies to now offer mandatory vaccination or testing. Biden pointed out that a third of America’s 100 largest companies have already done so. He called the obligation for employees who refuse a vaccination to be tested weekly and to wear a mask at work “a very modest burden”.

The court defeat comes at a time when record numbers of Americans are being infected or hospitalized every day due to the omikron advance. Every day, on average, about 800,000 new infections are added and about 1,800 inhabitants die. There were around 156,000 corona patients in hospitals on Friday. Just over 846,000 residents have succumbed to the disease since the start of the pandemic.