Today, the Supreme Court heard arguments in two cases concerning the federal government’s power to require individuals to obtain a COVID-19 vaccine. The first case involves whether the Court should stay (or temporarily halt) enforcement of OSHA’s vaccine mandate. This is the emergency regulation requiring employers to obligate their employees to either be vaccinated or wear a mask and test. The second case involves whether Health and Human Services can obligate health care workers who are employed at facilities that receive federal funds via Medicare and Medicaid to be fully vaccinated.
During arguments, there was universal acknowledgement of the seriousness of the threat posed by COVID. But the question really boils down to whether administrative agencies (OSHA and HHS) have authority to issue enormously consequential actions absent any specific directive from Congress.
Administrative agencies can only act in accordance with authority delegated to them from Congress. Under the constitutional separation-of-powers doctrine, they do not have power to make laws. And when these agencies take actions with enormous political and economic consequences, they can only do so with express authority from Congress.
We can disagree about the seriousness and dangers associated with COVID, but one thing is clear – the federal government doesn’t have the power to unilaterally impose a medical procedure upon hundreds of millions of Americans. It is imperative that the Court halt implementation of these measures and ensure the federal government’s unprecedented power grab is stopped.
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