The Supreme Court of the United States appeared on Friday divided on the vaccine obligation that Joe Biden wanted for certain companies, the progressive judges appearing very favorable and the conservatives much more skeptical.
But the majority of the nine judges appeared to support a measure that would require employees of health structures that benefit from federal subsidies to be vaccinated.
After months of trying to convince the reluctant, the Democratic President announced in September that he wanted to make vaccination compulsory, especially in companies with more than 100 employees, or some 80 million employees.
The unvaccinated should by this measure wear the mask and undergo weekly tests.
Joe Biden had also announced that vaccination would be compulsory for employees of health structures subsidized by the federal state, or about 10 million people.
The Federal Agency for Occupational Safety and Health (Osha) has given companies until February 9 to apply the rule, at the risk of being fined.
But in the country of individual freedoms, where 62% of the population is fully vaccinated, these measures were immediately denounced by elected Republican officials and by part of the economic world.
An avalanche of legal proceedings having led to contradictory decisions, the Supreme Court had agreed to devote this exceptional hearing to it and to hear the arguments concerning the vaccination obligation for employees of health structures.
Impacts on the economy
The three progressive judges appeared on Friday to clearly lean in favor of the two measures.
“Why would it not be necessary to reduce serious risks?” “Asked Judge Elena Kagan to the lawyer for business associations opposed to this measure.
“It’s a pandemic that has killed nearly a million people,” she said.
This is “the greatest danger in terms of public health that this country has had to face for a century”, and “this policy is the most likely to put an end to all this,” said the judge.
Scott Keller, who represents business associations, assured that compulsory vaccination in companies with more than 100 employees would push employees to resign.
Such a rule would lead to “a permanent replacement of employees, which would affect our national economy,” he said.
Benjamin Flowers, representative of the State of Ohio, also expressed his opposition, ensuring that this rule “was not intended to regulate a danger in the workplace”.
Speaking by phone after testing positive for Covid-19, Benjamin Flowers said the disease was “a risk we all face, waking up, being with our families, when we stop for coffee in going to work ”.
Head of Court Conservative John Roberts, while acknowledging that it was “urgent to tackle the problem”, joined other judges on his side, skeptical of the authority of the federal administration to impose such rules.
“This is something the federal state has never done, right, compulsory vaccination?” He asked.
“Traditionally, only the States have had the responsibility of supervising the vaccine obligations”, added the conservative judge Neil Gorsuch.
“Not a novelty”
Progressive judge Stephen Breyer, responding to the quitting argument, estimated that “some people” might quit their jobs, “maybe 3%”.
“But more people might quit when they find out they have to work with unvaccinated people, because that means they can get sick,” he argued.
Elizabeth Prelogar, representative of the Federal State before the Court, assured that the vaccination obligation was “not a novelty”.
“Most of us have been subject to vaccination requirements throughout our lives,” she said.
Louisiana Representative Elizabeth Murrill, who argued against the measure concerning health workers, called it “an unprecedented bureaucratic coup”.
According to her, these employees would be forced to undergo “invasive, irreversible and forced medical treatment, a vaccine against Covid”.
Conservative judges seemed more receptive to arguments in favor of this rule.
The decision of the high court is expected quickly, perhaps in the next few days.
The Supreme Court, which has six conservative magistrates out of nine, has so far validated the vaccine obligations imposed in academia or by local authorities.
If it blocked the administration’s measure, it would represent a considerable setback for Joe Biden, who has made the fight against the pandemic one of his priorities but is facing an outbreak of contaminations under the effect of the Omicron variant.