On the Money — SCOTUS strikes down Biden vax-or-test rules

Happy Thursday and welcome to On The Money, your nightly guide to everything affecting your bills, bank account and bottom line. Subscribe here: thehill.com/newsletter-signup

Today’s Big Deal: The Supreme Court just gutted President BidenJoe BidenNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Clyburn predicts Supreme Court contender J. Michelle Childs would get GOP votes Overnight Defense & National Security — US delivers written response to Russia MORE’s private sector vaccine mandate. We’ll also look at progress toward an annual spending deal, Lael Brainard’s confirmation hearing and a big victory for defrauded student debtors. 

But first, find out why the GOP’s “nice-guy” senator got called a “jerk” by former President TrumpDonald TrumpNorth Korea conducts potential 6th missile test in a month Kemp leading Perdue in Georgia gubernatorial primary: poll US ranked 27th least corrupt country in the world MORE

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For The Hill, we’re Sylvan Lane, Aris Folley and the newest member of the OTM team Karl Evers-Hillstrom—The Hill’s business and lobbying reporter. You’ve probably seen his byline here many times before and we’re thrilled to have him join us for good. Reach us at slane@thehill.com or @SylvanLaneafolley@thehill.com or @ArisFolley and kevers@thehill.com or @KarlMEvers

Let’s get to it. 

One Biden mandate blocked, one still standing

President Biden speaks to reporters after a Democratic caucus luncheon at the Senate Russell Office building to discuss voting rights and filibuster reform on Thursday, January 13, 2022.

The Supreme Court on Thursday temporarily blocked the Biden administration's vaccine-or-test mandate for large employers, but allowed a vaccine mandate for health providers at facilities that receive federal funding to stand.   

The Biden administration has argued that both policies are necessary in order to get as many people vaccinated against COVID-19 as possible. President Biden has indicated he is running out of patience with Americans who refuse to get vaccinated against the coronavirus and that the rules were meant to force the issue in order to make workplaces safer.  

While lower courts were split, the conservative Supreme Court majority ruled the employer vaccine-or-test mandate was an overreach. The justices said the challengers, a coalition of businesses and 27 Republican-led states, were likely to succeed on the merits.   

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Nathaniel Weixel and John Kruzel break down the ruling here

LEADING THE DAY

Business groups score key victory with OSHA ruling 

The Supreme Court’s ruling is a victory for trade associations that sued to block the vaccine-or-test requirement, which would cover more than 80 million workers. 

Business groups said that they couldn’t afford to lose unvaccinated workers who wouldn’t comply with the mandate amid a tight labor market. They also warned that employers would struggle to find enough COVID-19 tests to comply with the alternative testing option.  

“This is an important recognition that the OSHA rule is too broad,” said Doug Kantor, general counsel at the National Association of Convenience Stores. “Businesses are doing their part to promote vaccination and safety practices. We appreciate the Supreme Court recognizing that OSHA should not push regulatory requirements that cannot be met and will exacerbate the labor shortage.” 

  • Key components of the mandate went into effect Monday, including a workplace mask requirement for unvaccinated workers, before the Supreme Court blocked the rule and sent it back to a lower court on Thursday. 
  • The ruling doesn’t prevent employers from instituting their own vaccine requirements, as large companies such as United Airlines and Tyson Foods have done.   

Labor unions that have been pushing for stronger worker protections lambasted the ruling. Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employee International Union, accused the Supreme Court majority of “caving to corporations that are trying to rig the rules against workers permanently.”  

Karl has more on the fallout here

ON THE HILL

Fed's Brainard faces GOP pressure on climate stances 

Federal Reserve board member Lael Brainard sought to assure Republican senators Thursday that the central bank would not cut off financing to the fossil fuel industry or penalize banks who serve it if she becomes the bank’s No. 2 official. 

During a confirmation hearing before the Senate Banking Committee, Brainard insisted the Fed would not attempt to craft climate policy as it studies the potential financial risks of climate change despite intense GOP blowback to those plans. 

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“We would not tell banks which sectors to lend to or which sectors to not lend to, but we do want to make sure that they are measuring, monitoring and managing their material risks in many large financial institutions,” Brainard said.  

The background:  

While Brainard may not need any GOP support to be confirmed in a Senate narrowly controlled by Democrats, Republican concerns about her approach to climate-related financial risks could impede her path to the vice chairmanship. Sylvan explains here. 

FOUR CORNERS PLAY BALL

Negotiators report progress toward 2022 spending deal 

Senate and House negotiators say they are getting closer to a deal on setting the top-line spending number for an appropriations package to fund the government past Feb. 18 and avoid a shutdown. 

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  • The top Democrats and Republicans on the Senate and House Appropriations Committees met Thursday morning to chart a path for reaching agreement on a fiscal year 2022 omnibus government funding bill and said they would meet again soon. 
  • Negotiators in the so-called “Four Corners” say they’re optimistic about reaching an agreement.   

“I think we have a good chance of coming together on this,” Rep. Kay GrangerNorvell (Kay) Kay GrangerFiscal spending deadline nears while lawmakers face pressure to strike deal On the Money — SCOTUS strikes down Biden vax-or-test rules Negotiators report progress toward 2022 spending deal MORE (Texas), the top-ranking Republican on the House Appropriations Committee, told reporters as she headed into the meeting. Here’s more from Alexander Bolton. 

SUPPLY CHAIN PAIN

Producer prices grew record 9.7 percent in 2021 

Producer prices rose 9.7 percent in 2021, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department, the fastest calendar year increase on record. 

  • The producer price index (PPI) for final demand, which tracks prices charged for goods and services that are not a part of other products, rose nearly 10 percent last year as a sharp economic rebound strained supply chains.  
  • The increase marks the fastest annual jump in the PPI since the Labor Department began compiling the data in 2010.  
  • Even so, the PPI rose just 0.2 percent in December on a seasonally adjusted basis.  

Here’s more on the data

Good to Know 

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An agreement between a coalition of state attorneys general and Navient, one of the largest student loan companies in the U.S., resulted in a settlement that will forgive loans for 66,000 borrowers.

The agreement announced on Thursday concludes several state lawsuits and cancels loans worth a total of $1.7 billion, according to The Wall Street Journal. The private education loans forgiven were mostly issued between 2002 and 2010 before they were defaulted. 

Here’s what else we have our eye on: 

  • House Democrats are urging the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) to begin eliminating its backlog of unaddressed returns starting with the lowest-income Americans, days after the Treasury Department warned that tax refunds and other services may be delayed this year because of “enormous challenges.” 
  • New weekly claims for jobless benefits jumped by 23,000 during the first full week of January, according to data released Thursday by the Labor Department.  

That’s it for today. Thanks for reading and check out The Hill’s Finance page for the latest news and coverage. We’ll see you tomorrow.