A divided U.S. Supreme Court blocked the centerpiece of President Joe Biden’s push to get more people vaccinated amid a Covid-19 surge, rejecting an Occupational Safety and Health Administration rule that would have required 80 million workers to get shots or periodic tests.
The court let a separate rule take effect requiring shots for workers in nursing homes, hospitals and other facilities that receive Medicare and Medicaid payments from the federal government.
The OSHA ruling limits Biden’s options for increasing the country’s vaccination rate as the omicron variant propels a spike in cases. The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says only 63% of the country is fully vaccinated and of that group just 37% have received a booster shot. More than 800,000 people in the U.S. have died from the virus.
“Although Congress has indisputably given OSHA the power to regulate occupational dangers, it has not given that agency the power to regulate public health more broadly,” the court said in an unsigned opinion. The court’s three liberals — Justices Stephen Breyer, Elena Kagan and Sonia Sotomayor — dissented.
The decision is a victory for 26 business groups and 27 Republican-led states that sued to challenge the OSHA policy, saying it exceeded the workplace-safety agency’s authority.
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