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WASHINGTON — The U.S. response to the Covid-19 pandemic got politically messy. A Friday Supreme Court ruling could frustrate government responses to public health emergencies even further.

The Supreme Court struck down a long-standing legal doctrine that directed judges to defer to reasonable federal agency interpretations of ambiguous or technically challenging aspects of the law. The loss of the so-called Chevron doctrine calls into question every federal agency’s interpretation of a statute, so the ruling affects the regulations of all federal agencies.


However, the government’s ability to respond to public health emergencies is particularly vulnerable. When public health emergencies are declared, the government is granted broad discretion to act without first undertaking the long process of rulemaking.

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