Supreme Court to weigh Biden vaccine mandates
The US Supreme Court, which has restricted its own operations during the covid-19 pandemic, is preparing to decide whether to block President Joe Biden’s vaccine mandates for large businesses and healthcare workers in a test of presidential powers to address an unyielding public health crisis.
The court will hear in-person arguments on Friday on emergency requests in two separate cases by challengers including business groups, religious entities and various Republican-led US states for orders blocking the vaccine requirements, with rulings expected in short order. The challengers maintain that Biden and his administration have overstepped their authority.
The court’s 6-3 conservative majority in the past has shown skepticism toward sweeping actions by federal agencies. Decisions against Biden could hamstring his ability to take broad action to tackle a pandemic that already has claimed the lives of roughly 830,000 Americans, with covid-19 cases driven by the coronavirus Omicron variant soaring nationally.
The nine justices have spent the bulk of the pandemic working remotely. When the court returned to in-person oral arguments in October for the first time since the early stages of the pandemic, the few people allowed to attend were required to wear masks and maintain social distancing. Among the justices, only Sonia Sotomayor wore a mask in the courtroom during recent arguments.
Members of the public continue to be barred from entering the court building, as they have been since March 2020. Lawyers and journalists are required to take covid-19 tests to gain entry, though the court has not required proof of vaccination.
A court representative said all nine justices are fully vaccinated and have received booster doses.
The justices, sometimes divided, have rejected several religious-based challenges to state vaccine requirements. Friday’s cases are the first tests of the federal government’s authority to issue its own vaccine mandates.
Photo byREUTERS/Ken Cedeno