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WASHINGTON – Businesses and conservative groups hailed Thursday's Supreme Court ruling blocking the Biden administration's vaccine-or-testing requirement for employers as a victory for individual liberty and a boost for the economy.
“Americans have lost too much to this disease already – all of us want this pandemic to end – but it is critical that we do not lose our Constitution, too,” said Ohio Attorney General David Yost, who led a coalition of 27 attorneys general in seeking an immediate stay of the mandate.
The high court's ruling “protects our individual rights and states’ rights to pursue the solutions that work best for their citizens," Yost said.
The Job Creators Network, a conservative advocacy group, said the Supreme Court stood up for small businesses.
The federal government "does not have the authority to implement this sweeping regulation that will burden American businesses, including many small businesses, with new costs and exacerbate the historic labor shortage," said Alfredo Ortiz, the group's president and chief executive officer. "By issuing this stay, the Supreme Court has freed small businesses to focus on bringing the economy back to its pre-pandemic peak."
Labor officials push for other COVID protections
Meanwhile, President Joe Biden and liberal groups said the decision would put workers' lives at risk.
"We have to keep working together if we want to save lives, keep people working and put this pandemic behind us," Biden said.
Liz Shuler, president of the AFL-CIO, said the court's ruling should prompt other steps to keep workers safe, particularly those at higher risk.
The federal agency that oversees workplace safety should issue "an emergency standard to ensure all at-risk workers are provided layers of protections against COVID-19 transmission at work, like improved ventilation, distancing, masking and paid leave," Shuler said. "We will not beat this pandemic until we stop the spread of the virus at work."
Court lets vaccine rule stand for some health workers
The Supreme Court, in an unsigned ruling, said the Biden administration doesn't have the authority to impose sweeping vaccine-or-testing requirements for employers that would have covered tens of millions of Americans.
The decision marked the second time the nation's highest court has unwound one of the administration's key pandemic policies. The court in August blocked Biden's eviction moratorium, in a decision that also concluded federal officials had exceeded the power given to them by Congress.
In a second unsigned opinion handed down Thursday, the court let stand another vaccine mandate on Americans employed at health care facilities that receive federal funding through Medicare and Medicaid. That measure, which takes effect this month, is estimated to affect 10 million workers.
Biden said the latter decision will save the lives of patients, doctors, nurses and others who work in health care facilities. "We will enforce it," he said.
Biden said he was disappointed in the justices' decision to block what he called "common-sense life-saving requirements" for employees at large businesses.
"This emergency standard allowed employers to require vaccinations or to permit workers to refuse to be vaccinated, so long as they were tested once a week and wore a mask at work – a very modest burden," he said.
The ruling means it is now up to states and individual employers to determine whether to make their workforces "as safe as possible for employees" and whether businesses requiring employees to get vaccinated, Biden said.
The Center for American Progress, a left-leaning public policy group, said vaccine requirements are a powerful tool for protecting public health and worker safety.
"They are effective, good for the economy and publicly supported," said Emily Gee, the group's vice president and coordinator for health policy. "It is disappointing that the Supreme Court – which has its own testing and masking policy to protect the court from the virus – will not allow these essential protections to remain in place."
The American Medical Association noted that the ruling did not contest the reliability of scientific evidence supporting COVID-19 vaccines.
"Widespread use of the COVID-19 vaccines has proven to be the safest, most effective way to reduce virus transmission and public harm," said the group's president, Dr. Gerald E. Harmon. "We continue to urge large employers to do their part to safeguard their workforces and communities so we can defeat this COVID-19 pandemic together.”
Michael Collins covers the White House. Follow him on Twitter @mcollinsNEWS.
Contributing: John Fritze
This article originally appeared on USA TODAY: Supreme Court vaccine case: Businesses declare a victory for liberty