‘Hard to Predict’ What SCOTUS Will Do After Hearing Trucking’s Case to Block Biden’s Vax Mandate
Washington D.C. — Today, the Supreme Court of the United States (SCOTUS) heard oral arguments in trucking stakeholders’ legal challenge to President Biden’s vaccination-or-testing mandate for large businesses.
Lawyers for more than two dozen petitioners in the case— including the American Trucking Associations (ATA) and multiple state trucking groups — made their case on Friday urging SCOTUS to block enforcement of the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s (OSHA) controversial emergency temporary standard (ETS).
The ETS forces employers — with 100 employees or more — to require employees to be fully vaccinated by January 4, 2022, or ensure all unvaccinated employees wear a facial covering and provide proof of a negative COVID-19 test each week.
Petitioners argued OSHA does not have the authority to issue such a sweeping mandate and businesses are unfairly being forced to bear the cost burdens associated with the ETS — which OSHA estimates to be about $11,298 per affected entity, totaling a burden of $3 billion.
Conversely, U.S. Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar argued the Occupational Safety and Health (OSH) Act of 1970 vests OSHA with the power to impose such workplace regulations on private employers especially given the “grave danger” to unvaccinated workers posed by COVID-19.
For more than an hour the nine justices peppered counsel from both sides with questions.
It became increasingly clear left-leaning Justices Elena Kagan, Sonia Sotomayor and Stephen Breyer are supportive of the Biden Administration’s use of power deeming it “necessary” to worker safety.
For instance, Justice Kagan suggested OSHA was justified in asserting “extraordinary use of emergency power because it is an extraordinary circumstance.”
She also questioned why the legal system should decide the matter rather than the Biden Administration.
“Should it be [OSHA], full of expert policy makers and held politically accountable through the President, or on the other hand, courts can decide? Why in the world would courts decide this question?” Kagan remarked.
Conservative Justices Samuel Alito, Clarence Thomas, Amy Coney Barrett, and Neil Gorsuch seemed to be more sympathetic to trucking stakeholders’ arguments.
Whether SCOTUS chooses to halt enforcement of the ETS will likely hinge on where Chief Justice John Roberts and Justice Brett Kavanaugh come down.
Following oral arguments, trucking groups quickly reacted.
“It is always hard to predict what a ruling will look like based on oral arguments, but we’re confident that we made strong arguments that will compel the Court to agree with us that OSHA overstepped its authority in promulgating this ETS,” said Rich Pianka, ATA general counsel.
David Heller, vice president of government affairs for the Truckload Carriers Association (TCA), which also strongly opposes the ETS, expressed optimism SCOTUS will “quickly strike down the ETS” or at least freeze it until further arguments are heard.
“The disruption this ETS would have on the trucking industry cannot be understated,” said Heller. “TCA remains dedicated to fighting this ETS and working with the coalition to defeat this unnecessary standard.”
Most legal experts agree SCOTUS is likely to issue a ruling on the matter quickly as OSHA is set to begin enforcement of certain parts of the ETS on January 10, 2022.
TransportationNation.com will continue to track it closely as an opinion could be issued at any time.