Both Governor Kevin Stitt and the state of Oklahoma were quick to respond to President Joe Biden's new federal vaccine requirements Thursday.
The state of Oklahoma plans on suing the Biden administration over the president's mandate for every business with more than 100 workers to require COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing.
The President announced expansive rules Thursday afternoon, which experts say will affect about 80 million Americans - or about 75 percent of the workforce.
He also said that roughly 17 million workers at health facilities that receive federal Medicare or Medicaid also will have to be fully vaccinated. Biden said he will sign an executive order to require vaccination for employees of the executive branch and contractors who do business with the federal government — with no option to test out. That covers several million more workers.
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In a statement, Stitt called the President's announcement a "complete disregard for individual freedoms and states’ rights" and said he intends to fight the order.
“It is not the government’s role to dictate to private businesses what to do. Once again President Biden is demonstrating his complete disregard for individual freedoms and states’ rights. As long as I am governor, there will be no government vaccine mandates in Oklahoma. My administration will continue to defend Oklahoma values and fight back against the Biden administration’s federal overreach.
It's too early for a lot of companies to know what this means and how it'll be enforced, but Oklahoma Representative Kevin Hern was quick to point out the problems with what he calls a huge federal overstep.
"This looks like Putin or Xi Jinping, how they operate. He's trying to push this out there and that's what dictators do," Hern said.
Biden said the mandates will be enforced by a labor department rule.
News on 6 called 20 of Green Country's biggest employers including QuikTrip, Magellan Midstream Partners, AAON and Hillcrest for their response to the announcement. Most are holding back from making statements until they've seen that rule.
Tulsa Public Schools sent a statement saying they'll review Biden's plan to see what it means for school districts.
"We need to do more. This is not about freedom or personal choice. It's about protecting yourself and those around you," Biden said.
The requirement will affect more than 80 million Americans, including federal workers and contractors. If companies refuse, they could face a hefty $14,000 fine from OSHA.
"We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us. So, please do the right thing," Biden said.
Hern believes instead, many people and businesses will continue to refuse the vaccine and push back against the rule.
"This is going to be interesting, I'm sure there are going to be a massive amount of lawsuits this will probably be something that goes to the supreme court," he said.
The Oklahoma Attorney General John O'Connor and the Republican National Committee both said, separately, that they are pursuing litigation against Biden's mandate, claiming it is unconstitutional and an overreach of federal government.
According to Oklahoma Commerce Department, 1,962 companies employ over 100 people in Oklahoma meaning that the federal requirements will impact 678,122 Oklahomans. Oklahoma Senator James Lankford and Representative Kevin Hern issued similar rebukes of the President.
“My family and I chose to receive a COVID-19 vaccine, and I am grateful for it. Every Oklahoman and American should have that same choice and option. Federal employees and contractors, members of our military, health care workers, and everyone else in our nation should be able to choose whether to get vaccinated. Period. The Biden proposal ignores the natural immunity millions of Americans have because they have recovered from COVID and the millions of other Americans that do not want to be forced to take a vaccine for a multitude of personal, religious, and medical reasons,” said Lankford.
“The federal government has once again overstepped into the lives and livelihoods of American citizens,” said Rep. Hern. “Private companies, especially small businesses, are already suffocating under the oppressive restrictions put in place at the start of the public health emergency last year. My colleagues and I have warned of the slow march to socialism for years, and we were called liars for it. Turns out it’s not so much a slow march as it is a sprint. More restrictions, more mandates, more socialist policies are never the answer.”
Oklahoma AG O'Connor issued this statement after Biden's announcement, saying,
"We respect the right of Oklahoma businesses and individuals to make healthcare decisions for themselves and their families. My office will vigorously oppose any attempt by the federal government to mandate vaccines. We are preparing litigation to stand up for our rights and defend the rule of law against the overreach of the federal government."
The RNC Chairwoman Ronna McDaniel gave a statement of their intentional to sue the Biden administration over the move.
“Joe Biden told Americans when he was elected that he would not impose vaccine mandates. He lied. Now small businesses, workers, and families across the country will pay the price. Like many Americans, I am pro-vaccine and anti-mandate. Many small businesses and workers do not have the money or legal resources to fight Biden’s unconstitutional actions and authoritarian decrees, but when his decree goes into effect, the RNC will sue the administration to protect Americans and their liberties.”
Oklahoma House Speaker Charles McCall issued the following statement,
“The Oklahoma Legislature acted aggressively this session to stop unconstitutional federal overreach like President Biden proposed today. We saw this coming and are already prepared to block it in Oklahoma. This type of unilateral overreach is precisely why House Bill 1236 and the additional litigation funds for the attorney general were such big priorities this session. I applaud the attorney general for utilizing the tools the Legislature provided to defend Oklahoma’s rights as a state. President Biden is about to see the U.S. Constitution still matters in Oklahoma. This isn't the only unconstitutional Biden administration action Oklahoma needs to challenge. Our country is a republic of states, not a monarchy, and the president does not have the constitutional authority to issue these type of edicts.”