Justice Neil Gorsuch: OSHA does not have ‘the power to regulate public health’

The U.S. Supreme Court ruled on Thursday that the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) vaccination mandates for large private companies were unconstitutional, a decisive defeat for the Biden administration.

Joe Biden’s Secretary of Labor Marty Walsh does not have the authority to impose the Covid-19 vaccination mandates developed by OSHA, according to the court.

Chief Justice John Roberts, and Justices Clarence Thomas, Samuel Alito, Neil Gorsuch, Bret Kavanaugh, and Amy Coney Barrett voted to block Joe Biden’s vaccination mandates against private businesses.

“The Act empowers the [Health and Human Services] Secretary to set workplace safety standards, not broad public health measures,” the Supreme Court wrote in their per curium opinion.

The Supreme Court majority maintained that the authority to “respond to the pandemic,” they continued, “rests with the States and Congress, not OSHA.”

The court ruled 6-3 to block the vaccine mandates on private businesses, with Chief Justice Roberts, and Justices Thomas, Alito, Gorsuch, Kavanaugh, and Barrett concurring in the majority.

“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 wrote in their opinion. “Requiring the vaccination of 84 million Americans, selected simply because they work for employers with more than 100 employees, certainly falls into the latter category,” they added.

Justice Gorsuch argued that while he understood times are difficult, the law cannot only be followed during times of peace, adding that “declarations of emergencies would never end and the liberties of our Constitution’s separation of powers seeks to preserve would amount to little.”

Liberal Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor, and Stephen Breyer dissented from the majority opinion.

Liberal Justices Kagan, Stotomayor, and Breyer dissented from the majority.

“As disease and death continue to mount, this Court tells the agency that it cannot respond in the most effective way possible,” the liberal justices wrote in their opinion. “Without legal basis, the Court usurps a decision that rightfully belongs to others. It undercuts the capacity of the responsible federal officials, acting well within the scope of their authority, to protect American workers from grave danger.”

The Supreme Court’s ruling came days after OSHA and the Biden administration’s vaccine mandates took affect, requiring workers at private businesses with 100 or more employees to receive a Covid-19 vaccine or submit to weekly testing.

However, in Biden v. Missouri, a suit over vaccine mandates for healthcare workers, a 5-4 majority ruled that the Secretary of Health and Human Services had the authority to force healthcare workers to be vaccinated, disappointing conservatives.

Conservative Justices Roberts and Kavanaugh joined the three liberal justices to form a majority.

The majority opinion argued that “ensuring that providers take steps to avoid transmitting a dangerous virus to their patient is consistent with the fundamental principle of the medical profession: first, do no harm.”

Justices Alito, Thomas, Gorsuch, and Barrett, four of the six conservative justices, dissented.

“I do not think that the Federal Government is likely to be able to show that Congress has authorized the unprecedented step of compelling over 10,000,000 healthcare workers to be vaccinated on pain of being fired,” Justice Alito wrote in his dissent.

Justice Thomas also added that the Biden administration falsely relied on “a hodgepodge of scattered provisions” to justify their vaccine mandates.

While the court’s decision to uphold vaccination mandates for healthcare workers is upsetting to many conservatives, their decision to nix mandates for private businesses is a big loss for the Biden administration and a win against federal overreach.

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