Arkansas political leaders bemoan federal vaccine mandate; local law expert says requirement constitutionally allowed


FAYETTEVILLE, Ark. (KNWA/KFTA) — Last week, President Biden announced an extensive vaccine mandate impacting contracted federal workers and businesspeople. Arkansas political leaders have publicly spoken out against the requirement, but a local law expert said the mandate is absolutely constitutional.

Biden announced sweeping new orders last Thursday that will require employers with more than 100 workers to mandate vaccinations against COVID-19 or offer weekly testing. The new rules could affect as many as 100 million Americans, although it’s not clear how many of those people are currently unvaccinated.

“What more is there to wait for? What more do you need to see? This is not about freedom or personal choice,” Biden said. “It’s about protecting yourself and those around you.”

Gov. Asa Hutchinson (R) said he thinks the mandate will have an adverse reaction on vaccinations.

“The problem is that I’m trying to overcome resistance, but the president’s actions in a mandate hardens the resistance,” Hutchinson said.

Other Republican leaders in Arkansas are saying the same thing. Sec. of State John Thurston (R) said his office won’t mandate vaccines.

“Last week we saw, what I would consider being, massive federal overreach by the Biden administration in mandating vaccinations,” Thurston said in a press release. “This comes despite his statement in December that vaccines shouldn’t be mandated.”

State Sen. Greg Leding (D) said these other leaders are playing politics.

“A lot of them are running for office, so regardless of what their personal opinions are, they’re going to feel that it’s in their political interests to push back against the White House,” Leding said.

Matt Bender teaches at the University of Arkansas Law School. He said those who call the mandate “overreach” are forgetting historical precedent and current events in Southern states.

“Mississippi requires vaccines for all the typical childhood illnesses. Polio, measles, mumps, rubella, with no exception for a sincerely held religious belief,” Bender said.

Bender said he thinks compliance is inevitable.

“There’s both a constitutionally valid reason for this,” Bender said. “There’s also an important policy one if our goal is to keep people safe and move forward as a country.”

Copyright 2021 Nexstar Media Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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