Fact or Fiction: Missouri v. Biden and National Federation of Independent Business v. OSHA were solely about general vaccine mandates


Missouri v. Biden and National Federation of Independent Business v. OSHA are both recent rulings of the Supreme Court that would determine major steps of the Biden administration in their handling of the Covid-19 crisis. Biden v Missouri was based around the Biden admin wanting entities receiving Medicaid or Medicare funding to have a vaccine mandate for their workers. National Federation of Independent Business v. OSHA was based around the Biden admin wanting to enforce a rule that makes businesses with 100 or more employees that have those employees together in person insist that they are either vaccinated or wear masks and be regularly tested. 

Because neither of these cases place a general “vaccine mandate” on the entire working population, it is fiction to say that the rulings were mandating vaccination. The rulings of these cases say that mandates for health care workers are okay, but mandates for ordinary employees of large businesses are not.

The majority opinion stated that because OSHA has never had to make standards based on the transmission of a deadly virus, therefore limiting their reach in making standards on these situations. Laws regarding government agencies tend to be on the vague side as it is the job of those in the agency, the experts, to create the specifics. The majority opinion pointed out how powers to deal with a pandemic were not a direct power to the bureaucracy. The majority were focused on how Covid-19 is not a workplace exclusive problem, therefore saying OSHA has less power in regulating. 

In National Federation v OSHA, the three liberal judges gave the dissenting opinion (opposite of the opinion that won). In their dissent, they argued that the majority read the powers given to OSHA by Congress in a crabbed way, reading it how they believed it would fit the court’s ruling. OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, was made to “ensure safe and healthful working conditions for workers by setting and enforcing standards and by providing training, outreach, education and assistance.” OSHA keeps you safe at work. One of their powers is to issue temporary rules in emergencies when “employees are exposed to grave danger from exposure to substances or agents determined to be toxic or physically harmful or from new hazards,” The dissenting opinion believed that the majority’s ruling was an incorrect interpretation of OSHA’s power. 

Despite the ruling, it is interesting to see the rationale of both the majority and the dissenting opinions. To me, both make sense and make it difficult to form a firm decision on rules regarding Covid-19. It only makes me more curious as to where we go next.