One day after President Biden announced sweeping new COVID-19 vaccine requirements for about 100 million Americans, Oklahoma’s congressional delegation is pushing back.
|Related Story:||Governor Stitt Responds To Biden: 'There Will Be No Government Vaccine Mandates In Oklahoma'|
Each member of the delegation is vaccinated, but they believe getting the shot should be a personal choice, not a government mandate. President Biden says mandating that certain Americans get vaccinated was not what he wanted to do, but with hospitals again overrun with COVID patients, the vast majority of the people who have refused to get vaccinated he told them he had no choice.
“We've been patient, but our patience is wearing thin, and your refusal has cost all of us,” said the president in a nationally televised address Thursday afternoon.
President Biden said, in an effort to protect all Americans, he had asked the Department of Labor to develop an emergency rule that would force employers with 100 or more workers to require their employees either be fully vaccinated or show a negative Covid test each week.
“Some of the biggest companies are already requiring this,” President Biden stated, “United Airlines, Disney, Tyson's Food, and even Fox News.”
In addition to the requirement for private employers, Biden announced that all employees of healthcare facilities that receive Medicare or Medicaid dollars must be vaccinated. Federal employees and federal contractors also now fall under the mandate.
Republicans in Congress say a mandate is not the answer.
Rep. Frank Lucas, (R) OK-3, arguably the most pro-vaccine member from Oklahoma, calls the vaccine mandate "an egregious act of federal overreach" and says the mandate should be “struck down.”
Congressman Kevin Hern, (R) OK-1, also criticized the decision in a statement: “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.”
Senator James Lankford, (R) OK, said that he and his wife made a personal decision to get vaccinated, which is how it should be. “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.”
President Biden anticipated such criticism and says the reluctance, or refusal, of a quarter of the eligible population, shouldn’t be allowed to endanger everyone else.
“This is not about freedom or personal choice,” said Biden. “It's about protecting yourself and those around you, the people you work with the people you care about the people you love.”
It's unclear when exactly the requirements will take effect. The White House has said that the Department of Labor should issue the rule "in the coming weeks."
Full statements from members of the Oklahoma congressional delegation:
Sen. James Lankford, (R) Oklahoma:
“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.”
Rep. Stephanie Bice, (R) OK-5:
“Yesterday, President Biden released his ‘Path Out of the Pandemic,' a plan that requires Americans get vaccinated. Biden and his administration have previously stated that there would be no vaccine mandates. They lied. Through this order, Biden has placed the burden on American employers, forcing their employees to be vaccinated or tested weekly. These companies are still in recovery from the pandemic, searching for employees to fill empty positions, and now they must also comply with government mandates or be penalized. The Federal government must focus its efforts on rebuilding the economy, not continuing to encumber the private sector with commands and red tape.
This directive continues the long list of overreaching executive orders that began on day one of Biden’s term. As he laid out the details of this latest order, Biden said: ‘This is not about freedom or personal choice,’ but it is about this very thing. This type of federal overreach is unconstitutional, and yet another example of Democrats’ efforts to grab power at every opportunity. The RNC has already indicated its intent to challenge the authority of this executive order in federal court, a move I wholeheartedly support.
To be clear, I am proud of the work Operation Warp Speed played in creating this vaccine to combat this deadly disease and I encourage everyone who is able to get vaccinated, but businesses should not be forced to bear the brunt of that responsibility, it should be left to the individual to decide for themselves."
Rep. Frank Lucas, (R) OK-3:
“President Biden’s exploitation of a vaccine mandate is an egregious act of federal overreach.
While my wife and I have taken the personal responsibility to be vaccinated- and I encourage all eligible Oklahomans to get vaccinated- the decision should be a personal decision done in consultation with one’s health care provider, not dictated by the government.
Despite efforts through private-sector incentives, Oklahoma businesses are now forced to grapple with an impermissible government mandate that hinders their ability to retain workers and recover from the economic effects of COVID.
The President’s mandate should be struck down.”
Rep. Kevin Hern, (R) OK-1:
“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.”