Supreme Court appears poised to block Biden’s vaccine and testing rules for

But in a separate challenge, some justices seemed more open to a vaccine mandate aimed at certain health care workers.

The three liberal justices on the court expressed clear approval for the administration’s rules in both areas.

For the first time, seven of the justices appeared in the majestic chamber wearing masks, though Justice Neil Gorsuch chose not to. Before arguments began, the court announced that Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who suffers from diabetes, would hear arguments remotely from her chambers even though a spokeswoman said she was not ill. Sotomayor sits next to Gorsuch on the bench under normal circumstances.

Two of the lawyers representing states challenging the rules were not present due to Covid protocols. Ohio Solicitor General Benjamin Flowers, who is vaccinated, contracted Covid after Christmas, and has fully recovered, the state’s office said. However, the PCR test required to enter the courtroom detected the virus.

Skeptical of federal rules

Although the justices have been receptive to past attempts by states to mandate vaccines, the new disputes center on federal requirements that raise different legal questions.

Two sets of rules, issued in November, were the subject of Friday’s cases. The first would impact some 80 million individuals and requires large employers to mandate that their employees either get vaccinated or submit to weekly testing. Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas and Amy Coney Barrett, suggested that the Biden administration’s rule, issued under an agency’s emergency powers, was too broad.

Sotomayor to appear remotely for Supreme Court hearing on vaccine rules, but is not ill, court says

Barrett asked whether a “more targeted” regulation aimed at industries with a higher risk of transmission, would be more likely to pass legal muster.

Along the same lines, Thomas suggested that younger, unvaccinated workers might have fewer health risks and should not be subject to the same rules as older workers. He also said that states could be better suited than the federal government to require vaccines or testing under their police powers.

Two of President Donald Trump’s nominees, Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh, questioned whether a federal agency could issue a regulation with such vast economic and political significance without the clear authorization of Congress. Chief Justice John Roberts seemed to agree on that point by wondering if the government had responded on an “agency by agency” basis, in order to get around the fact that Congress and some states had failed to act.

The second case concerned a regulation that requires certain health care employees who work for facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid programs to obtain vaccinations.

In that dispute, more justices seemed receptive to the Biden administration’s authority.

They also questioned if Republican-led states behind the challenge had the legal right to be in court because they only operate some of the facilities. Neither the facilities nor workers challenged the requirement, something Kavanaugh noted during oral arguments.
Former Biden health advisers say the US needs to change its Covid-19 strategy to face a 'new normal'

During both arguments, the liberal justices expressed repeated support for the Biden administration’s authority to…

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