In a situation like this, one where we’re in the middle of a public health emergency, courts recognize that they lack the institutional competency to make judgments about what’s in the best interest of public health and safety. — Donald B. Verrilli Jr., Solicitor General of the United States under President Barack Obama
In a situation like this, one where we’re in the middle of a public health emergency, courts recognize that they lack the institutional competency to make judgments about what’s in the best interest of public health and safety. — Donald B. Verrilli Jr., Solicitor General of the United States under President Barack Obama

The OSHA Act gives employees a right to a safe and healthy workplace. Having a vaccinated work force is an essential component of having a safe and healthy workplace. — Robert I. Field
The OSHA Act gives employees a right to a safe and healthy workplace. Having a vaccinated work force is an essential component of having a safe and healthy workplace. — Robert I. Field

This is not about freedom, or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you. — President Joe Biden
This is not about freedom, or personal choice. It’s about protecting yourself and those around you. — President Joe Biden

Biden Tests Limits of Presidential Power in Pushing Vaccinations
President Biden’s far-reaching assertion of executive authority to require Covid-19 vaccines for 100 million American workers relies on a set of complicated legal tools that will test the power — and the limits — of the federal government to compel personal health care decisions.

To more aggressively confront the coronavirus pandemic, Mr. Biden is pulling several levers of presidential power: He is using an emergency provision in the Occupational Safety and Health Act of 1970; he is threatening to withhold federal funding from hospitals and other health care organizations; and he is embracing his authority as chief executive of the sprawling federal work force and its contractors.

Together, the president’s actions are an assertive use of his jurisdiction over American life as the occupant of the Oval Office. Until Thursday, under Mr. Biden’s leadership, the White House had been far more cautious about mandating vaccines than his counterparts around the world, especially in Europe.

On Friday, facing accusations from Republicans of an abuse of power and threats of lawsuits, Mr. Biden had a simple retort.

“Have at it,” he said.

The right of government to impose vaccines has been established since at least 1904, when the Supreme Court issued a 7-to-2 ruling that Cambridge, Mass., could require all adults to be vaccinated against smallpox. But more recent cases — including the first Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act — call into question whether Mr. Biden or any president could simply order all Americans to get shots.

That is not what Mr. Biden is doing. By requiring that companies maintain safe workplaces through vaccination, legal experts said Friday that the president was relying on the federal government’s well-established constitutional power to regulate commerce and the 51-year-old law establishing the Occupational Safety and Health Administration.

Once OSHA drafts an “emergency temporary standard” and a White House regulatory office reviews it, officials said the agency would begin enforcing the rules: collecting reports of violations and sending out inspectors who will be empowered to impose $13,650 fines for violations and up to $136,500 for those that are willful or repeated.

“The constitutionality of this regulatory effort is completely clear,” said Donald B. Verrilli Jr., who served as solicitor general under President Barack Obama. “In a situation like this, one where we’re in the middle of a public health emergency, courts recognize that they lack the institutional competency to make judgments about what’s in the best interest of public health and safety.”

... Experts said the administration appeared to be on strong legal ground.

“The OSHA Act gives employees a right to a safe and healthy workplace,” said Robert I. Field, a law professor at Drexel University. “Having a vaccinated work force is an essential component of having a safe and healthy workplace.”


Mr. Biden’s call to use that authority was a sharp shift in tone and approach. For months, the president tried gentle persuasion. Anything more, the White House worried, would backfire in a polarized country where tens of millions of people viewed the Covid-19 vaccine as a political Rorschach test.

But on Thursday, he declared himself out of patience with the unvaccinated.

“This is not about freedom, or personal choice,” he said. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you.”

... But in a statement, White House officials said the president was “committed to pulling every lever possible” in the fight against the pandemic.

“This action is both clearly legal and needed to help save lives and stop the spread of Covid-19,” it said.
Read the full article: https://www.nytimes.com/2021/09/10/us/politics/biden-vaccines.html