By Caroline Vakil
The Biden administration on Tuesday said it is withdrawing its vaccine-or-test mandate for businesses with at least 100 employees after the Supreme Court earlier this month blocked the requirement from being enforced, ruling that it was a federal overreach. Given the Supreme Court’s decision, the Biden administration filed a motion on Tuesday to have the existing lawsuits that were filed against the employer vaccine mandate dismissed. Twenty-seven Republican-led states and a coalition of businesses had brought those legal challenges against the mandate. “The federal government respectfully moves to dismiss the petitions challenging the Vaccination and Testing emergency temporary standard (Vaccination and Testing ETS) issued by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) to address the grave danger of COVID-19 in the workplace,” the Biden administration said in a motion.
The Biden administration said that it would be withdrawing the mandate, effective on Wednesday, asking for the existing lawsuits against it to be considered moot. The vaccine-or-test mandate, which was created by OSHA and published in early November, required businesses with at least 100 employees to mandate that employees get vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear masks. The mandate was expected to apply to 84 million people, and officials said early on that it would protect thousands of workers from hospitalization or death.“OSHA estimates that this rule will save thousands of lives and prevent over 250,000 hospitalizations during the six months after implementation,” one official said in November. But the mandate was immediately hit with legal challenges, including from more than two dozen Republican attorneys general who argued in multiple lawsuits that the Biden administration did not have constitutional authority to implement the OSHA mandate.
The vaccine-or-test mandate was temporarily stayed by a 5th Circuit panel, but a separate federal court revived the rule before it was ultimately blocked by the Supreme Court. The Supreme Court’s conservative majority in mid-January ultimately decided that the 27 Republican-led states and coalition of businesses were likely to succeed in challenging the mandate on the merits and ruled that the OSHA-crafted mandate was an overreach by the government. The Biden administration’s move to withdraw its vaccine-or-test mandate is a formality at this point given the Supreme Court’s decision and likely marks a final resolution to the legal challenge. Some Republican lawmakers cheered the news of the administration saying that it would withdraw the mandate.
“OSHA plans to withdraw Biden’s vaccine mandate for biz/workers. Today’s news is the result of months of pressure in both the House & Senate, during which time @SenatorBraun and I built a coalition around our Congressional Review Act resolution to eliminate this mandate,” Rep. Fred Keller (R-Pa.) tweeted on Tuesday. Sen Mike Braun (R-Ind.) on Twitter called the news a “huge win for liberties and livelihoods everywhere!”A Labor Department spokesperson said in a statement that the ruling would not affect the mandate’s status as a proposed rule.“OSHA is evaluating the record and the evolving course of the pandemic. OSHA has made no determinations at this time about when or if it will finalize a Vaccination and Testing rule. The agency intends to work expeditiously to issue a final standard that will protect healthcare workers from COVID-19 hazards,” the spokesperson said.