Oklahoma Gov. Kevin Stitt, Sen. James Lankford rebuke Biden's planned vaccine mandates
Amid a surge of COVID-19 cases, hospitalizations and deaths across the country, President Joe Biden announced Thursday new vaccination and testing requirements for workers at businesses employing 100 workers or more.
His policy could impact up to 80 million workers across the nation.
But as Biden pushed for more mandates, Oklahoma's governor and one of its two U.S. Senators were denouncing the president's plan.
“It is not the government’s role to dictate to private businesses what to do," Gov. Kevin Stitt said. "Once again, President Biden is demonstrating his complete disregard for individual freedoms and states’ rights."
United States Sen. James Lankford specifically took aim at a portion of Biden's plan that would impact employees of the federal government.
“My family and I chose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and I am grateful for it," Lankford said Thursday, adding that he believes every Oklahoman and American should be allowed to make that choice.
A number of large Oklahoma companies told The Oklahoman recently they were not requiring vaccines for their employees, though some were offering incentives to workers who willingly took the shots.
A business-by-business approach is what would work best for Oklahomans, said Chad Warmington, CEO of the State Chamber. The chamber has consistently opposed mandates throughout the COVID-19 outbreak.
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"Mandates are a one-size-fits-all approach that is a blunt example of government overreach, and we have a great deal of concern about that, both on the federal and state levels," Warmington said. "Those decisions need to be left to employers and what is best for their employees and customers."
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The Associated Press reported Thursday that the vaccination/testing requirement for employers with 100 workers or more would be deployed through rule making undertaken by the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration.
White House officials told the AP that those companies would have to give employees paid time off to obtain vaccinations.
A company violating that rule, the AP reported, would face a fine of $14,000 per violation.
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White House officials characterized the requirements and others expected for workers at health care facilities and federal agencies/contractors as an all-out effort to curb the onslaught of the delta variant of COVID-19, which authorities say has been killing thousands each week and jeopardizing the nation’s economic recovery.
Beyond the large employers requirement, about 18 million more workers at healthcare facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid dollars will be required to be fully vaccinated.
Millions of other federal employees and wage earners employed by contractors who do business with the federal government would also be required to take the vaccines, those officials said.
Thursday evening, Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor pledged Oklahoma would fight Biden's orders in court, announcing his office was preparing a lawsuit to fight the requirements.