WASHINGTON -- Arkansas Republicans on Thursday praised a U.S. Supreme Court ruling that stopped a vaccine-or-test rule for large companies rolled out by the Biden administration last year.
Their remarks came the same day as Arkansas reported yet another record single-day increase in new coronavirus cases. As the highly contagious omicron variant circulates, virus-related hospitalizations are rising in Arkansas and long lines are forming by those seeking to tested.
The rule from the U.S. Occupational Safety and Health Administration would have required workers at companies with 100 or more employees to get the coronavirus vaccine or receive weekly testing for the virus.
Republicans have lambasted the rule for months, arguing the vaccination requirement from the Biden administration was a federal overreach.
Arkansas' vaccination rate remains stubbornly low. Only 51.8% of the state's population is fully vaccinated from the coronavirus as of Thursday, according to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.
"I think that was a huge overstep [by] the Biden administration," U.S. Rep. Bruce Westerman of Hot Springs said in an interview Thursday, commenting on the OSHA rule.
U.S. Sen. John Boozman of Rogers said OSHA simply didn't have the authority to come out with such a requirement. The senator said he also does not believe that mandates work.
"People should have the ability to decide whether or not [they] want to be vaccinated," he said in an interview Thursday.
Gov. Asa Hutchinson issued a statement saying he was grateful for the ruling.
U.S. Rep. French Hill of Little Rock, in a statement on social media, reiterated his opposition to vaccine mandates and called the rule a "one-size-fits-all" mandate.
He encouraged the unvaccinated to consult with their doctors and consider getting the vaccine, a statement that largely reflects how many Republicans have attempted to persuade people to get vaccinated.
U.S. Rep. Steve Womack of Rogers weighed in on the ruling as well, saying in a statement that the "federal government has no right to dictate the medical decisions of private employers."
U.S. Rep. Rick Crawford of Jonesboro, whose office announced earlier this week that he had contracted covid, said the ruling was a win "for the businesses who were set to lose a large portion of their workforce at a time where they are already struggling to fill positions."
U.S. Sen.Tom Cotton of Little Rock issued no statements on Twitter or in emails about the ruling.
President Joe Biden described the rule's requirements as "a very modest burden."
"I am disappointed that the Supreme Court has chosen to block common-sense life-saving requirements for employees at large businesses that were grounded squarely in both science and the law," Biden said in a statement.