By Devan Cole, CNN
Arkansas Gov. Asa Hutchinson urged large businesses in the state not to comply with the Biden administration’s Covid-19 vaccine mandate, saying employers should not follow the “oppressive” rule hours before the order is set to partially go into effect.
“They should wait until they get the Supreme Court decision, and of course that’s an individual business decision,” Hutchinson, a Republican, told CNN’s Jake Tapper on “State of the Union” Sunday when asked if large businesses should comply with the rule, which his state and others are challenging before the nation’s highest court.
“This mandate of (the Occupational Safety and Health Administration), the federal government, needs to be struck down and that’s why we’re fighting against it,” he added. “I expect the Supreme Court hopefully to rule against the Biden administration on that oppressive vaccine mandate.”
The Supreme Court heard arguments in the case on Friday, with the majority-conservative court appearing ready to reject the vaccine mandate, which represents one of President Joe Biden’s most aggressive attempts so far to combat the spread of Covid-19.
Issued last year by OSHA, the rule requires employers with 100 or more employees to ensure that their employees are fully vaccinated or undergo regular testing and wear a face covering at work. There are exceptions for those with religious objections. The rule is set to partially go into effect Monday.
Hutchinson said Sunday that some businesses in the state will “make the decision that they ought to have a vaccine requirement in the workplace, and I support their ability to make that decision.
“There shouldn’t be a ban against that, but others make the decision that it’s not necessary. Maybe they work in a more open environment, or they have a risk of losing too many employees. And so they have that freedom,” the governor said.
During oral arguments last week, Solicitor General Elizabeth Prelogar told the justices that “Covid-19 is the deadliest pandemic in American history and it poses a particularly acute workplace danger.”
However, she said, OSHA had the authority to act in a way that would “save 6,500 lives and prevent 250,000 hospitalizations in just six months.”
Scott A. Keller, a lawyer for the National Federation of Independent Business, told the court that OSHA did not have the authority to put in place a vaccine and testing regime that would cover two-thirds of all private-sector workers.
He said the OSHA requirement would impose substantial compliance costs on businesses that will be faced with incurring the cost of testing for millions of employees who refuse to vaccinate.
Hutchinson said last year that he thinks the vaccine mandate “hardens the resistance” some people have to getting one, telling NBC News that the administration’s decision is divisive and “an unprecedented assumption of federal mandate authority.”
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CNN’s Ariane de Vogue contributed to this report.