On Friday, the U.S. Supreme Court heard oral arguments for two major policies by the Biden Administration to widen the scope of their ability to impose Covid-19 vaccine mandates.

The justices were hearing arguments for a vaccine-or-test mandate the Biden White House was proposing for large employers, and a plan to impose mandates for healthcare workers at facilities receiving federal funding.

The mostly conservative-leaning court seemed skeptical and likely to strike down the broader vaccine-or-test proposal but was more open to the mandate for healthcare workers after hearing both arguments.

The Biden Administration brought these proposals to the Supreme Court on an emergency basis in September, and SCOTUS surprisingly fast-tracked the oral arguments in these cases.

It is fitting that these arguments are occurring as the virus is now experiencing a surge due to the Omicron variant. That was noticeable in court that day, with all justices besides justice Neil Gorsuch wearing masks. Justice Sonia Sotomayor, who is at higher risk from Covid-19 due to diabetes, participated in the arguments remotely. Two of the six lawyers in Friday’s argument also chose to join in the arguments by phone.

The first case, National Federation of Independent Business v. Department of Labor, was based on the Occupational Safety and Health Administration’s vaccine-or-test mandate. The mandate required employers with 100 or more employees to either compel their workers to get vaccinated or submit them to weekly testing along with wearing a mask at work.

Justices clashed over whether requiring a vaccine was within OSHA’s jurisdiction of workplace safety, and if individual states or administrative bodies should be responsible for mandating vaccinations.

The second case, Biden v. Missouri, would allow the Biden administration to require all healthcare workers at facilities that participate in Medicare or Medicaid to be fully vaccinated against Covid-19 unless they qualified for a medical or religious exemption if upheld. While some justices questioned elements of the argument, expressed the view that it was within the US Department of Health and Human Services’ authority to issue the mandate.

One of the challengers to this case, Missouri deputy solicitor general, Jesus Osete, said that this mandate will cause an “imminent crisis” in rural areas in America as workers will have to decide between getting a vaccine or losing their jobs.

The court is expected to release “one or more” opinions on Thursday.

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