The Occupational Safety and Health Administration announced Tuesday that it was canceling its emergency policy mandating large businesses require employees to be vaccinated or face masking and testing, after the Supreme Court put the policy on ice this month.
In its notice announcing the retreat, OSHA said the court’s ruling dealt a death blow to the mandate, which was issued as an emergency temporary standard, or ETS.
“Notwithstanding the withdrawal of the Vaccination and Testing ETS, OSHA continues to strongly encourage the vaccination of workers against the continuing dangers posed by COVID-19 in the workplace,” the agency said.
The business mandate, which applied to companies with at least 100 employees, was the broadest of President Biden’s mandates, covering more than 90 million private-sector workers.
The Biden administration has issued three other mandates covering federal workers, federal contractors and medical workers who are funded by federal programs. The federal worker and federal contractor mandates have both been put on hold by lower courts, while the Supreme Court allowed the medical worker mandate to remain in place.
But it was the business mandate that was supposed to do the heavy lifting in Mr. Biden’s strategy to prod vaccine resisters to get the shots.
The Supreme Court, in a 6-3 ruling, said that while vaccine mandates on workers are legal, Congress must give that authority to the administration. There is no evidence that Congress wanted OSHA to be able to do it on its own, the majority ruled.
The decision didn’t technically rule the OSHA policy illegal, but rather prevented it from going into effect while lower courts heard more arguments.
OSHA‘s decision Tuesday should bring those cases to a close.
The White House has brushed off the legal losses, suggesting that the president’s goal of prodding Americans to get shots already has largely succeeded.
White House press secretary Jen Psaki last week said 96% of federal workers had taken steps to comply with their mandate by the time a federal judge halted it.
OSHA, in its filing Tuesday, said it isn’t entirely giving up the fight for a mandate on businesses.
While it has scrapped the emergency standard, it still will go through with the usual rule making process, OSHA said.
Rep. Virginia Foxx, the top Republican on the House Education and Labor Committee, urged OSHA to cancel that effort, too.
“We should allow our business owners and workers to get our economy back on track — not force them to carry out the will of Washington bureaucrats,” the North Carolina lawmaker said.
OSHA‘s policy would require businesses to enforce a vaccine mandate or impose mandatory masking and weekly testing for employees.
Businesses said it would be a massive financial burden and could chase millions of people from the workforce.
• Stephen Dinan can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.
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