Last night the Supreme Court scheduled oral argument for January 7 in two cases involving federal coronavirus mandates. The first case involves the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) mandate that employers with 100 or more workers ensure that all of them are vaccinated or tested regularly. The other centers on a challenge to the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services requirement that all healthcare workers in federally funded facilities be vaccinated.
As the country gets pummeled by Omicron, both of these would seem to be no-brainers, the very least the government could do to get this shit under control and protect workers. But half the country has lost its damn mind, so naturally the Republican attorneys general and a gazillion business lobbies rushed into court to challenge it.
On November 12, a Fifth Circuit panel struck down the OSHA mandate. The Fifth Circuit, to which Trump appointed six judges, is a godawful wasteland, and this panel shows exactly why. Judge Kurt Engelhardt, writing the opinion for his fellow Trump appointee Stuart Kyle Duncan and Reagan appointee Edith Jones, not only downplayed the severity of COVID but also accused President Joe Biden of trying to prop up the vaccination rate to boost his own popularity. As evidence he points to a retweet by White House chief of staff Ron Klain of a Stephanie Ruhle tweet calling the mandate "the ultimate work-around."
Imagine living through the Trump administration and writing that courts were simply obligated to assess legislation by looking at the White House staff's Twitter feed! And yet: "In reviewing agency pronouncements, courts need not turn a blind eye to the statements of those issuing such pronouncements... In fact, courts have an affirmative duty not to do so."
RTs: not just endorsements, but official statements of government policy!
The entire opinion is just a broadside against federal powers generally, as Slate's Mark Joseph Stern lays out in an excellent article. And while you're over there, check out this post by Stern and Dahila Lithwick on how much Justices Gorsuch, Alito, and Thomas want to murder us all by murdering vaccine mandates. For freedom and liberty!
Last week, the Sixth Circuit reinstated the mandate, so now we have a circuit split, hence the emergency hearing.
In the second case, the Eleventh Circuit allowed to go into effect the CMMS mandate that health care workers be vaccinated, while the Eighth Circuit allowed the opinion of a district judge in Louisiana to stand and block it. As CNN notes, Judge Terry Doughty, a Trump appointee, quoted at length from an affidavit filed by a vaccine skeptical doctor "whose views on the vaccines are so outside the mainstream that the health care system that once employed him sought a temporary restraining order because it claimed the doctor was improperly associating himself with it."
You can bet that the Supreme Court is going to do something horrible here, and that many people will get sick and die as a direct result of it. But lest you think this pack of robed jackals don't give a shit about your opinion, they've done us all the favor of scheduling oral argument on a more-or-less emergency basis, rather than doing it on the shadow docket.
The court has taken a lot of flak lately for issuing opinions with major consequences without a full briefing and argument. And they'd like to continue being partisan hacks who are systematically dismantling civil liberties and good government without the hoi polloi calling them out on it, so they're doing us all this huge favor and scheduling an expedited briefing for a day they weren't even supposed to be in session.
After which they'll go on to send all the meat packers back to breathe in Omicron droplets, as they always intended.
Well, the good news is that the Supreme Court knows how much we hate them. The bad news is that they're still going to do all the horrible shit they had planned — but they'll jump through a few extra hoops first to pretend they're really giving it serious thought and not just destroying the country for sport.
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