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Biden administration officially withdraws vaccine rule

Screen capture from CBS News.

WASHINGTON (AP) — The Biden administration has officially withdrawn a rule that would have required workers at large employers to get vaccinated or face regular COVID testing requirements.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration confirmed the withdrawal Tuesday (Jan. 25). But the agency said it still strongly encourages workers to get vaccinated.

In early November, OSHA announced a vaccine-or-test mandate for companies with at least 100 employees. The rule, which would have impacted more than 80 million U.S. workers, was originally set to go into effect Jan. 4.

But numerous states and business groups challenged the rule in court. On Jan. 13, the Supreme Court halted the plan. In a 6-3 ruling, the court’s conservative majority concluded that OSHA had overstepped its authority.

Southern Baptist Theological Seminary was among those organizations opposing the mandate, filing a petition in November to block its enforcement. SBTS President Albert Mohler celebrated the Supreme Court’s ruling, calling it “a vindication of our cause from the very beginning” and adding: “The issue here is not the vaccine, but the attempt by the Biden administration to turn employers, including religious employers, into extensions of the administrative state.”

In their opinion, the court’s majority wrote, “OSHA has never before imposed such a mandate. Nor has Congress. Indeed, although Congress has enacted significant legislation addressing the COVID-19 pandemic, it has declined to enact any measure similar to what OSHA has promulgated here.”

The justices left in place a vaccine mandate for health care providers who receive federal Medicare or Medicaid funding. That rule affects 10.4 million workers.

OSHA indicated that the rule could return in some form. While it is no longer an enforceable standard, it remains a proposed rule, OSHA said. In the meantime, the agency said it will prioritize the health care mandate.