Arkansas joined 26 states Friday in urging the U.S. Supreme Court to block President Joe Biden’s mandates regarding COVID-19 vaccines.

The Supreme Court’s conservative majority appeared skeptical Friday of the Biden administration’s authority to impose a vaccine-or-testing requirement on the nation’s large employers. The court seemed more open to a separate vaccine mandate for most health care workers.

The arguments in the two cases come at a time of spiking coronavirus cases because of the omicron variant, and the decision Friday by seven justices to wear masks for the first time while hearing arguments reflected the new phase of the pandemic.

An eighth justice, Sonia Sotomayor, a diabetic since childhood, didn’t even appear in the courtroom, choosing to remain in her office at the court and take part remotely. Two lawyers, representing Ohio and Louisiana, argued by telephone after recent positive COVID-19 tests, state officials said.

“As Attorney General, I have always stood against federal overreach and took immediate action when the Biden Administration forced the illegal OSHA and CMS vaccine mandates on American workers,” said Arkansas Attorney General Leslie Rutledge in a statement issued Friday. “These illegal mandates make Arkansas and our workforce decide between taking a shot or losing jobs.”

The two cases that the Supreme Court heard Friday are Ohio v. Dept. of Labor, No. 21A244 and Biden v. Missouri, No. 24A240.

Arkansas U.S. Sens. John Boozman and Tom Cotton, U.S. Sen. Mike Braun of Indiana, joined congressional Republicans in filing an amicus brief with the Supreme Court regarding the case considering the Biden Administration’s Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) vaccine mandate.

The brief supports the lawsuit challenging the mandates and urges the court to issue an emergency order to halt them. Boozman and his colleagues argue Congress did not give OSHA the authority to impose a vaccine mandate.

“Congressional members have an interest in the powers they delegate to agencies not being abused – the legislative authority vested in the federal government belongs to Congress, not the Executive branch. In this case, the promulgation by the Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) of a sweeping, nationwide vaccine mandate on businesses intrudes into an area of legislative concern far beyond the authority of the agency. And it does so with a Mandate enacted through OSHA’s seldom-used ‘emergency temporary standard’ (ETS) provision that allows for bypass of notice and comment rulemaking under certain circumstances. That OSHA exceeded its authority in enacting the ETS Mandate is not a ‘particularly hard’ question,” members wrote in the brief.

Under the OSHA rule, COVID-19 vaccinations are mandated for private employers with 100 or more employees.

The Fifth Circuit Court of Appeals blocked implementation of OSHA’s rule but the U.S. Court of Appeals for the Sixth Circuit overturned the ruling and reinstated the mandate.

Boozman has also joined efforts to block Biden’s vaccine mandate on private employers. The Senate passed a bipartisan resolution under the Congressional Review Act to nullify the Biden administration’s mandate.

The Associated Press contributed to this article.

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