Biden administration suspends vaccine trade mandate


US President Joe Biden delivers remarks on the authorization of the COVID-19 vaccine for children aged 5 to 11 in the South Court Auditorium of the White House in Washington on November 3, 2021.

Evelyne Hockstein | Reuters

The Biden administration has suspended enforcement of its vaccination and testing requirements for private businesses after a federal appeals court suspended the rules pending their review.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration, in a statement posted on its website, said the agency “has suspended activities related to the implementation and enforcement of” the requirements “pending the evolution of the litigation. “.

The United States Court of Appeals for the Fifth Circuit, considered one of the most conservative in the country, last week ordered OSHA to “take no action to implement or enforce the mandate until to further order of the court “.

Judge Kurt D. Engelhardt, in an opinion for the three-judge panel, called Biden’s policy “fatally flawed” and “incredibly broad,” arguing that it likely exceeds the authority of the federal government and raises ” serious constitutional problems ”.

The White House had previously asked companies to proceed with the implementation of the requirements.

Republican attorneys general, private companies and national industry groups such as the National Retail Federation, the American Trucking Associations and the National Federal of Independent Business have filed a lawsuit to overturn the requirements. Unions are asking courts to expand requirements to cover small businesses and protect more workers.

Those cases were transferred to the Ohio Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals this week after the Biden administration asked a multi-district litigation committee to consolidate the 34 lawsuits into a single court by random selection. The Sixth Circuit, which has a Republicans nominated majority, ordered the administration to file a single response to all challenges by November 30.

The Biden administration, in its response to the Nov. 6 Fifth Circuit’s initial decision to press pause, warned that halting implementation of vaccine requirements “would likely cost dozens, if not hundreds. lives per day ”as the virus spreads. The Departments of Labor and Justice maintain that OSHA has acted well within its authority as established by Congress.

Under Biden policy, companies with 100 or more employees faced a Jan. 4 deadline to ensure their employees are vaccinated or undergo regular testing. Unvaccinated employees had to start wearing masks indoors at the workplace on December 5.

OSHA said it “remains confident in its authority to protect workers in an emergency.” The agency, which monitors workplace safety for the Ministry of Labor, issued the requirements under its emergency authority. OSHA may shorten the normal rulemaking process if the Secretary of Labor determines that a new workplace safety standard is needed to protect workers from serious harm.

Whatever the outcome of the federal appeals court, the case will likely be decided by the Supreme Court, according to Carl Tobias, a professor of law at the University of Richmond. “Whoever loses in the Sixth Circuit will go to the Supreme Court,” Tobias told CNBC on Thursday.

The United States Chamber of Commerce, in a statement to CNBC this week, advised companies to proceed with the implementation until the requirements are “permanently closed.”

“Ultimately the courts will decide, but employers should still view this as a live ETS until it is definitively closed,” said Marc Freedman, House vice president for employment policy, about the temporary emergency standard. “They should not bet on the preliminary actions of the 5e Circuit, ”he told CNBC in a statement.


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