12/08/2021 / By Mary Villareal
The United States Court of Appeals for the 6th Circuit has officially denied the federal government’s motion to transfer the lawsuit that challenged the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) Wuhan coronavirus (COVID-19) vaccine-or-test requirement to a different court.
In a December 3 ruling, the court denied the government’s motion to transfer the case to the 5th Circuit and the D.C. Circuit, while also rejecting as “moot” the administration’s attempts to overturn a hold on the mandate that OSHA published on November 5.
According to the Emergency Temporary Standard published by the administration, private employers with 100 or more employees will be required to impose a mandatory vaccine-or-test policy. It also requires unvaccinated workers to wear masks inside the workplace, with violators facing potential penalties up to tens of thousands of dollars per incident.
Upon the publication of the OSHA Rule, a torrent of lawsuits from Republican-led states, businesses and individuals rained on the Biden administration. They have so far successfully blocked the most sweeping initiatives by the Democratic president, which were created to drive up vaccination rates.
More than four-fifths of adults nationwide have already received at least one dose of a COVID-19 vaccine. Biden said his various mandates are important in curtailing the virus that killed over 780,000 people in the United States.
The 5th Circuit granted a motion to stay on the ETS and ordered that the OSHA “take no steps to implement or enforce” it until further court orders. This prompted OSHA to announce the suspension of the rule pending litigation.
Several legal challenges also appeared later on, and the Ohio-based 6th Circuit Court was selected via lottery to hear the consolidated lawsuits. The Biden administration also filed a motion to lift the 5th Circuit’s stay on the mandate and get the case moved to a more favorable court. On December 3, the 6th Circuit denied the requests.
Rob Natelson, a former constitutional law professor, wrote the legal challenge to the OSHA rule will likely end up in the Supreme Court. He said that the high court will likely weigh in on several issues regarding the ETS, which include whether or not the mandate exceeds the powers that the Constitution grants to the federal government, and whether or not OSHA exceeds its authority under its statute. It will also ruminate on whether or not the vaccine-or-test requirement denies individuals the due process of law. (Related: BREAKING: OSHA announces it will comply with 5th Circuit Appeals Court and SUSPEND Biden’s vaccine mandate.)
The 5th Circuit ruled the OSHA mandate to be “fatally flawed” and said that it will likely be declared unconstitutional. Opponents to Biden’s mandates have taken a three-tiered approach to challenging the president. They contended that the vaccine mandates were imposed without proper public comment, were not authorized by Congress and that it infringes on state rights to regulate public health matters.
Gregory Magarian, a constitutional law professor at Washington University in St. Louis, said: “The reasoning across the cases is basically the same, which is that these statutes don’t give the president or the agency in question the authority to issue the mandates.”
The Biden administration also contends that the rule-making authority is firm and supersedes any state policies prohibiting vaccine requirements. Recent experience shows that such mandates prompt people to get vaccinated.
In its November 23 filing, the Biden administration argued that the 5th Circuit erroneously interpreted the OSHA mandate, saying that “the speculative compliance costs and similar harms asserted by regulated parties cannot overcome the extraordinary harms to the public interest” as detailed in the document.
White House lawyers claimed that “delaying the standard would likely cost many lives per day, in addition to large numbers of hospitalizations, other serious health effects, and tremendous expenses. That is a confluence of harms of the highest order.”
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