Vaccine mandate critics urge highest court to defend individual freedom

By Casey Harper, The Center Square

President Joe Biden’s series of controversial federal vaccine mandates faced their first day before the U.S. Supreme Court Friday, and critics are urging the justices to side with personal freedoms over what they call executive branch overreach.

National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, the first of two cases heard by the court Friday, considers a vaccine mandate on private employers with 100 or more employees. The second case, Biden v. Missouri, challenges Biden’s mandate on health care workers.

“Today was one of the most important moments in our nation’s history,” Heritage Foundation President Kevin Roberts, which has joined the legal challenges to Biden’s mandate push, said. “The Biden administration, and many on the far left, believe that the federal government has the right and the authority to dictate personal and private medical decisions to the American people, and coerce their employers into collecting protected health care data on their employees. This overreach is a fundamental violation of the American spirit of freedom and personal responsibility and represents the left’s assault not just on common sense, but our constitutional rights.”

Opponents of the mandate who are involved in the legal challenges say they support vaccines but not the federal government’s right to mandate their use.

“COVID vaccines are safe and effective,” said Ohio Attorney General Dave Yost, who represents one of more than two dozen states challenging the mandate. “I urge everyone to get vaccinated and boosted. But that doesn’t mean OSHA can mandate them.

“I am concerned about the spread of the virus and urge everyone to protect themselves against COVID-19, but I am equally concerned about this unlawful use of executive power,” he added.

Lawmakers have also pushed back on Biden’s mandate. A bipartisan measure to block Biden’s private sector mandate passed in the U.S. Senate in December.

Convention of States Action, along with the Trafalgar Group, released a poll this week, which reported that 51.1% of surveyed voters support that effort.

“The Supreme Court should strike down Biden’s authoritarian vaccine mandate,” said U.S. Rep. Claudia Tenney, R-N.Y., who signed on to an amicus brief filed with the court. “It’s the last best hope to preserve health freedom. I support voluntary vaccination efforts, but it should always remain a choice.”

Supporters of the mandate, though, said the COVID-19 pandemic is a public health emergency and stressed the need for everyone to be vaccinated.

“Especially as the U.S. faces the highly transmissible omicron variant, it is critical to protect workers with vaccination requirements and testing protocols that are urgently needed,” White House Press Secretary Jen Psaki said after the Supreme Court announced they would take up the case. “At a critical moment for the nation’s health, the OSHA vaccination or testing rule ensures that employers are protecting their employees and the CMS health care vaccination requirement ensures that providers are protecting their patients. We are confident in the legal authority for both policies and DOJ will vigorously defend both at the Supreme Court.”

During oral arguments Friday, challengers to the mandate warned there would be mass resignations and major economic consequences if the mandate is allowed to stand.

Robert Alt, president and chief executive officer of The Buckeye Institute in Ohio, echoed that sentiment, pointing to local businesses that will be impacted.

“If OSHA’s unlawful vaccine mandate is allowed to take effect on Monday, it will catalyze predictably devastating consequences on the supply chain and impose irreparable economic harm upon companies including our clients, Phillips Manufacturing and Tower Co. and Sixarp LLC, which respectively manufacture and package goods used by consumers every day and are both vital to the supply chain,” Alt said. “The U.S. Supreme Court should issue a stay immediately to clarify the limits of OSHA’s authority and prevent the fallout that is certain to follow.”

Any more economic challenges would be a problem for the Biden administration, which took heat Friday for a jobs report showing the economy created fewer than half the number of jobs expected in December.

Underperforming jobs numbers, mass resignations, and elevated inflation have helped depress Biden’s approval ratings on the economy.

“Biden just had his worst jobs report ever and what is his administration focused on?” Republican National Chair Ronna McDaniel said. “Defending his job-killing vaccine mandate at the Supreme Court.”

Fines for the OSHA mandate begin Feb. 9, and the court is expected to rule more quickly than usual on this case.

“The arguments made today challenging the Biden regime’s mandate were powerful and persuasive,” Roberts said. “The justices of the Supreme Court have a sacred duty to uphold and protect the Constitution. They must do so in this case by unequivocally rejecting this unlawful mandate and assigning it to the trash heap of American jurisprudence. If they fail to do so, the consequences for our republic will be dire.”

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