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Biden admin. withdraws COVID-19 vaccine mandate for large businesses

Vaccine Mandates March Protest
Demonstrators participate in a Defeat the Mandates march against vaccine mandates in Washington, D.C., on January 23, 2022. |

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration has withdrawn its emergency vaccine mandate proposal for businesses with at least 100 employees, though it is still pursuing a permanent rule on the requirement.

In a decision made official on Wednesday, OSHA withdrew its emergency temporary standard issued last November to require large businesses of 100 employees or more to get more of their employees vaccinated against COVID-19 or undergo regular testing and wear masks.

In a Federal Register entry, the administration withdrew the emergency measure in light of a U.S. Supreme Court decision earlier this month to block its enforcement through a temporary stay while a lawsuit against the policy is litigated. 

“Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the Vaccination and Testing ETS, OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace,” stated OSHA.

The decision was first announced on Tuesday, with OSHA explaining that they are “not withdrawing the ETS as a proposed rule.”

“The agency is prioritizing its resources to focus on finalizing a permanent COVID-19 Healthcare Standard,” OSHA said on Tuesday.

The First Liberty Institute, a legal nonprofit that represented Daystar Television Network, the American Family Association and Answers in Genesis in legal challenges against the mandate, celebrated the news.

“The Supreme Court made it clear that the President Biden administration’s attempt to federalize the nation’s workforce is blatantly unconstitutional,” said First Liberty President Kelly Shackelford in a statement.

“We will continue to fight on behalf of our clients and the American people to protect them from being forced to violate their faith.”

In announcing its temporary standards in November, the agency “determined that many employees in the U.S. who are not fully vaccinated against COVID-19 face grave danger from exposure to SARS-CoV-2 in the workplace.”

“This finding of grave danger is based on the severe health consequences associated with exposure to the virus along with evidence demonstrating the transmissibility of the virus in the workplace and the prevalence of infections in employee populations,” the statement reads.

In the Jan. 13 per curiam decision granting a temporary stay in the case of Ohio et al v. Occupational Safety and Health Administration, the majority of the U.S. Supreme Court determined that “Applicants are likely to succeed on the merits of their claim that the Secretary lacked authority to impose the mandate.”

“Administrative agencies are creatures of statute. They accordingly possess only the authority that Congress has provided,” the ruling stated. 

“The Secretary has ordered 84 million Americans to either obtain a COVID–19 vaccine or undergo weekly medical testing at their own expense. This is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power.’”

The court’s three justices appointed by Democratic presidents — Justices Stephen Breyer, Sonia Sotomayor and Elena Kagan — dissented from the unsigned majority opinion. 

“In our view, the Court’s order seriously misapplies the applicable legal standards. And in so doing, it stymies the Federal Government’s ability to counter the unparalleled threat that COVID–19 poses to our Nation’s workers,” the dissent argued.

“Acting outside of its competence and without legal basis, the Court displaces the judgments of the Government officials given the responsibility to respond to workplace health emergencies.”

Thousands rallied in protest of vaccine mandates on the National Mall in Washington, D.C. on Sunday. 

Last week, a federal judge in Texas issued a preliminary injunction halting an executive order by President Joe Biden requiring COVID-19 vaccinations for federal employees and contractors. Judge Jeffrey Vincent Brown, a Trump appointee, proclaimed that the order is "a bridge too far" as it required millions of "federal employees to undergo a medical procedure as a condition of their employment" without consulting U.S. Congress.

Earlier this month, another Texas judge sided with a group of Navy personnel seeking religious exemptions to the Department of Defense's vaccine mandate. 

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