General Electric became the latest company to suspend its COVID-19 vaccine and testing requirement after the Supreme Court blocked President Joe Biden’s mandate.
The company has previously encouraged its 174,000 employees to get the jab, according to a spokesperson, and will continue to do so.
GE had announced in October an intention to begin a vaccination mandate in an attempt to comply with the federal regulations.
President Biden urged businesses to bring in vaccine mandates on their own and pushed states to ‘do the right thing’ after the Supreme Court voted 6-3 Thursday to block his sweeping rules on private companies in a crushing blow to his pandemic response.
The high court did however allow a vaccine mandate for employees at health care facilities receiving federal dollars to go into effect. Twenty-seven states had petitioned the Supreme Court to issue a stay on the rule while it is battled out in the judicial system.
The conservative justices claim Biden’s rule was over-broad and would have presented a ‘significant encroachment’ on the ‘everyday lives — and health — of’ the 84 million American workers that would have been impacted.
The Supreme Court has blocked President Joe Biden ‘s vaccine-or-test mandate for private companies with 100 or more employees, in a 6-3 decision handed down on Thursday that dealt a crushing blow to the White House’s pandemic response
It’s the latest setback in a bad day for Joe Biden (pictured telling reporters that Democrats’ current plan for voting rights is dead after moderate Sen. Kyrsten Sinema objected to scuttling the filibuster)
GE headquarters on Necco Street in Boston. The company’s employees will no longer be held to a federal or company-wide vaccine mandate
The justices passed Biden’s mandate for healthcare workers 5-4, with Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh siding with liberal Justices Sonia Sotomayor, Elena Kagan and Stephen Breyer.
Biden called the ruling on private businesses ‘disappointing’ in a statement on Thursday afternoon but added that the decision to keep the healthcare mandate ‘will save lives.’
‘This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work: a very modest burden,’ the president claimed.
‘As a result of the Court’s decision, it is now up to States and individual employers to determine whether to make their workplaces as safe as possible for employees, and whether their businesses will be safe for consumers during this pandemic by requiring employees to take the simple and effective step of getting vaccinated.’
Thirteen states including Texas, Florida and Arizona have bans or limits on imposing vaccine mandates while many companies including Amtrak, Macy’s and Starbucks have already announced measures for their employees.
GE CEO Lawrence Culp Jr.’s company will continue to encourage all of its employees to take the shot
Democrat-led states such as New York with their own mandates won’t be impacted and can keep their rules in place, while states without any rules in place can decide for themselves.
Republicans celebrated the decision by calling it a ‘victory for freedom’ after claiming it was an overreach for the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) – the agency usually tasked with investigating asbestos and workplace accidents.
Labor Secretary Marty Walsh has, despite the loss, vowed to use the OSHA’s existing authority to hold businesses accountable for protecting workers.
‘We urge all employers to require workers to get vaccinated or tested weekly to most effectively fight this deadly virus in the workplace,’ Walsh said in a statement Thursday. ‘Employers are responsible for the safety of their workers on the job.’
Biden’s rival Donald Trump praised the decision and mocked Biden’s campaign-era promise to ‘shut down’ the virus.
‘The Supreme Court has spoken, confirming what we all knew: Biden’s disastrous mandates are unconstitutional,’ Trump said in a statement through his Save America PAC.
‘Biden promised to shut down the virus, not the economy but he has failed miserably on both—and mandates would have further destroyed the economy. We are proud of the Supreme Court for not backing down. No mandates!’
Biden rolled out sweeping measures in September aimed at getting more Americans vaccinated, after the rate of inoculations slumped as the Delta variant brought a new wave of infections over the summer. If implemented, they would have affected a combined one-third of the US workforce.
Following the president’s orders the Occupational Health and Safety Administration (OSHA), the agency which ensures public and private workplace safety on a federal level, rolled out details for its rules for private companies.
In the 6-3 majority opinion, the conservative justices claim the rule ‘draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to COVID–19.’
They go on to argue that COVID-19 is not an ‘occupational hazard’ and can be spread ‘at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather.’
‘That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases,’ the opinion states.
Biden on Thursday said he was disappointed with the Supreme Court’s decision, but would urge businesses to step up and tell States to do the right thing
‘Permitting OSHA to regulate the hazards of daily life—simply because most Americans have jobs and face those same risks while on the clock—would significantly expand OSHA’s regulatory authority without clear congressional authorization.’
This is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power’: SCOTUS justices key arguments in their decision
‘It draws no distinctions based on industry or risk of exposure to COVID–19. Thus, most lifeguards and linemen face the same regulations as do medics and meatpackers.’
‘This is no ‘everyday exercise of federal power’ … It is instead a significant encroachment into the lives—and health—of a vast number of employees.’
‘Although COVID– 19 is a risk that occurs in many workplaces, it is not an occupational hazard in most. COVID–19 can and does spread at home, in schools, during sporting events, and everywhere else that people gather…
‘…That kind of universal risk is no different from the day-to-day dangers that all face from crime, air pollution, or any number of communicable diseases.’
‘OSHA’s indiscriminate approach fails to account for this crucial distinction— between occupational risk and risk more generally—and accordingly the mandate takes on the character of a general public health measure, rather than an ‘occupational safety or health standard.”
They called the rule a ‘blunt instrument’ that would improperly place the same workplace guidelines on a ‘lineman’ as a ‘medic.’
In his concurring opinion Justice Neil Gorsuch appeared to take a jab at White House Chief of Staff Ron Klain, who landed himself and Biden in hot water late last year by retweeting an MSNBC host calling the mandate the ‘ultimate work-around’ to normal Congressional authorities.
Gorsuch said it appeared that OSHA ‘pursued its regulatory initiative only as a legislative ‘work-around.”
In typical fashion Klain took to Twitter to defend his boss’s mandate on Thursday.
‘We didn’t impose ANY vaccine requirements until August, and the one the Court stayed today was not announced until September,’ Klain wrote.
‘These requirements were used only after persuasion, incentives ($100 to get a vax), and final FDA approval were all in place.’
Republican praise for the court’s decision poured in near-immediately.
House GOP Leader Kevin McCarthy blasted Biden’s mandates as ‘unlawful and not based on science’ before promising to continue to oppose the rule for healthcare workers.
‘Today’s ruling blocking OSHA’s vaccine mandate is a welcomed rejection of an arbitrary, aggressive, and authoritarian government. But the fight isn’t over. Republicans will continue to speak up for the many health care workers who have been wrongly fired due to a similar mandate,’ McCarthy said.
‘This is a huge win. The federal government has no place making far-reaching mandates that put an undue burden on businesses across Wyoming,’ Senator Cynthia Lummis wrote on Twitter.
Mike Pompeo, Donald Trump’s ex-Secretary of State, said Biden’s mandate is ‘unconstitutional. Period.’
‘Grateful the Supreme Court agreed. We must always be vigilant to ensure the federal government does not become too powerful,’ Pompeo said on the platform.
The GOP tweeted: ‘This is a victory for American workers, and the GOP is proud of our role filing one of the lawsuits that halted this mandate.’
Senator Roger Marshall, a licensed physician, celebrated: ‘This is a HUGE victory for all Americans who were forced to fight against Joe Biden’s cruel campaign to punish workers over their medical freedom.’
National Republican Party chair Ronna McDaniel said: ‘We are proud to have filed one of the lawsuits challenging the Biden administration and are encouraged by this ruling, but the fight is not over. The Republican National Committee will continue to stand up for businesses and workers.’
The decision also came as new data appeared to show Omicron may have peaked that cases could soon fall sharply.
Statistics from Johns Hopkins University shows that New York, New Jersey and Maryland have all seen seven day-average cases drop in recent days. Deaths have spiked by 20 per cent in a fortnight to around 1,820 a day, but still sit far below the peaks of winter 2020, even though more COVID infections are being recorded.