Yesterday’s Justice Department statement stated it would appeal against the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention decision to vacate the federal travel mask mandate. Anthony Coley, a spokeswoman for the Justice department, said the department believes that the mandate requiring the masking of travelers in the transport corridor was a valid use of authority Congress gave to CDC to safeguard the public’s health.
The mask mandate could have been deemed to be a Congressional power that gave the CDC a broad authority “to safeguard the public’s health.” It is not clear, however, if the Constitution permits the legislative branch of the Constitution to give such broad authority to an executive agency. The question is also whether Congress has the authority to delegate such vast powers to an executive agency, as this would be in addition the power reserved for the states by the 10th Amendment.
Because of the broad contemporary definition of “public Health”, this authority would not only include measures to control communicable diseases, but any policy that reduces morbidity and mortality. While the CDC would love to be able to do so, this power is clearly outside the agency’s statutory powers and those granted by the Constitution.
It is the central problem in Health Freedom Defense Fund v. Biden, the lawsuit challenging the CDC’s mask mandate, was narrower: whether the Public Health Service Act of 1944—specifically, 42 USC 264(a)—gave the agency the power to decree that people who fly on commercial airplanes, use mass transit, or travel in taxis or ride-sharing cars must wear face masks. Kathryn Kimball Mizelle from Florida was a federal judge that concluded the CDC did in fact lack the authority it claims.
It seems that the supporters of this mandate are determined to hide what was at issue in this case. Jen Psaki (White House Press Secretary) said yesterday, “Public Health decisions shouldn’t go to the courts.” They should be taken by experts in public health. Mizelle didn’t make a decision about public health; instead, she took a It is legalDecision based upon her comprehension of the pertinent statute.
Contrary to Psaki’s assertion, courts can and must make these decisions. She would certainly have admitted this if Mizelle had ruled in favor of the CDC. It would undermine the rule of law if politicians accepted the authority of the judiciary to interpret and enforce statutes when it suits them.
However, the Justice Department does not think that Mizelle was competent to determine whether or not the mask mandate exceeds the CDC’s statutory power. It disagreed with her conclusion and said she had misunderstood Section 264(a). This is the text of that provision:
With the approval of Secretary, the Surgeon General [of health and human services]The Surgeon General is empowered to create and enforce regulations that he deems necessary in order to stop the spread, transmission or introduction of communicable disease from other countries to the United States or their possessions. To enforce such regulations, the surgeon general may order such inspections, fumigation or disinfection of articles or animals that are so infected as to pose a danger to humans, or other necessary measures.
The CDC has now been given this authority. The CDC had previously argued that Section 264(a)’s opening sentence and “other measures” gave it the freedom to impose whatever disease control measures it deems necessary. The Supreme Court rejected this reading of Section 264, noting that the CDC would have a remarkable amount of power. As the Court observed, “it is hard to see what measures this interpretation would place outside the CDC’s reach, and the Government has identified no limit…beyond the requirement that the CDC deem a measure ‘necessary.'”
Court presented some scenarios to show that point. For people to be able to work, manufacturers should provide computers for free
From home For remote working, you can order high-speed Internet service from telecommunications firms. These are just a few examples.
If the CDC had understood the scope of its authority, they would have been able to issue mandates for any COVID-19-related recommendations. This includes its recommendation on the wearing of masks in schools and business. It could have decreed that everyone is not allowed to relocate, rather than focusing its attention on individuals who move due to being evicted. They could have made every American get vaccinated for COVID-19. The government could have ordered all Americans to stop using their homes except for essential purposes and imposed nationwide business shutdowns. As it did in the case of the mask mandate for travellers and the eviction moratorium, the government could have imposed civil or criminal sanctions on those who violated these requirements. It could also have made any of these decisions to respond to COVID-19, as well as to stop the spread of Any communicable disease, including the seasonal flu and the common cold.
It was highly unlikely that these powers existed in a seldom used statutory provision. However, the Court found it extremely unlikely. The CDC discovered them 76 years later. The Court concluded that Section 264(a), which lists specific measures to control disease, “informs” the grant of authority because it illustrates the types of actions that might be required.
The CDC had to prove that its mask-mandatory was comparable to those listed under Section 264(a) in order to defend it. Mizelle rejected the argument that travelers were forced to wear masks as a form “sanitation”, and she outlined several reasons in her 59 page decision.
Mizelle distinguished two different definitions of sanitation. This definition includes measures that aim to keep something clean. It could also include barriers such as masks designed to stop infection. It refers to cleaning measures, including sewage disposal and plumbing as well as direct cleaning of any dirty or contaminated item. Mizelle made the conclusion that the Public Health Service Act’s statutory context, common usage and general meaning meant the narrower definition was more appropriate.
Mizelle believes that this interpretation is supported by Section 264(a), which was used prior to the CDC’s attempt to make it a general disease prevention authority. Mizelle noted that “perhaps the most noteworthy use” of Section 264 (a) was “a decision not to allow small turtles to be kept in the country due to the risk of salmonella. Additionally, she noted that Section 246(a) appears to only apply to property while the other provisions relate to isolation and quarantine of persons.
Mizelle, like the Supreme Court was reluctant to say that Congress had given powers as wide as the ones claimed by the CDC. She wrote that the CDC’s definition of “sanitation” was not limited to masks. Businesses could be required to have air filtration installed in their workplaces, or to place plexiglass barriers between offices and desks. A power to increase’sanitation’ would also allow for the requirement of vaccinations against COVID-19 or other diseases. Or to mandatory social distancing, coughing-into-elbows, and daily multivitamins.”
You might be wondering if the Justice Department believes Mizelle’s interpretation is clearly incorrect. If so, then why did it not appeal the ruling immediately? It made that conditional on whether or not the CDC decided that the mandate for masks, due to expire May 3, must be renewed. The Justice Department may be determined to defend “the authority Congress granted CDC for public health protection,” something it believes Mizelle misunderstookly denied.
According to the Justice Department, there’s a high chance that the U.S. Court of Appeals (which includes Florida) will affirm a government decision. The Justice Department is concerned that if Mizelle appeals a decision of the 11th Circuit in favor of the government, then the Supreme Court would also be likely to uphold it.
Carl Tobias from the University of Richmond said that “I believe some judges could have been persuaded” by the administration’s view. The Washington Post. The 11th Circuit is conservative in ideology. This would prove difficult.
The New York TimesThe dangers that appeals could present to the CDC’s inflated perception of its authority is also highlighted. The CDC states that a ruling made by a judge of a district court is not binding. Times notes. The risk of the “Appeal the Matter” would be that it is ruled against the [11th Circuit] could issue a ruling that constrains the agency’s future conduct at least in its region, the Southeastern United States….And above it, the Supreme Court has a six-to-three conservative majority.”
If you consider these six justices to be “conservative,” it is misleading because they are likely to reach political conservative conclusions. It is true that they have more conservatism than the three other justices in approving executive-agency powers Congress has never granted. I think that this is a positive thing. From the Biden administration’s viewpoint, however, it is better to make things ambiguous to help facilitate future CDC power grabs.