Little, Wasden and other GOP leaders threaten suit over Biden COVID rule

24 other Republican attorneys general submitted a letter of their own to the Biden administration 

By: - September 17, 2021 4:08 pm
President Biden at Boise airport

President Joe Biden steps off of Air Force One at the Boise Airport on Monday, Sept. 13, 2021. (Jim Max for the Idaho Capital Sun)

Idaho Gov. Brad Little, Attorney General Lawrence Wasden and two Republican legislative leaders signed a letter Friday threatening legal action if President Joe Biden doesn’t repeal a new vaccine and COVID-19 testing rule for employers.

The move isn’t a surprise in Idaho, where Little and Speaker of the Idaho House of Representatives Scott Bedke, R-Oakely, already put out statements in recent days saying they were exploring legal action against Biden’s vaccine rule. Bedke and Idaho Senate President Pro Tem Chuck Winder, R-Boise, also signed the letter with Little and Waden.

The letter is in response to Biden issuing a new Department of Labor rule last week requiring employers with more than 100 workers to mandate COVID-19 vaccines or weekly testing.

“While we fully welcome creative and effective means to end this terrible pandemic, there appears to be no legal basis for the Department of Labor to issue an (emergency temporary standard rule) of this nature,” the letter said.

Little, Wasden, Bedke and Winder’s letter follows action by 24 other Republican state attorneys general, who signed a letter Thursday threatening to sue if the Biden administration did not remove the vaccine and testing requirements, the D.C. bureau for States Newsroom reported. (States Newsroom is the parent nonprofit organization of the Idaho Capital Sun.)

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In Thursday’s letter, the Republican attorneys general called Biden’s COVID-19 plan “disastrous and counterproductive.”

Biden traveled to Boise on Monday where he met with Little and leaders of state and federal fire agencies for a briefing over wildfires that have devastated much of the West. It was Biden’s first visit to Idaho as president. The White House streamed about 30 minutes worth of video footage of Biden and Little’s meeting on Monday, and the two did not discuss the vaccine rule at that time. Instead, Biden focused on the wildfire briefing, global warming and extreme weather.

Little, Wasden, Bedke and Winder are pushing back against the Biden new vaccine and COVID-19 testing rule just as Idaho’s hospitals have activated crisis standards of care across the whole state for the first time in history. That means overwhelmed Idaho hospitals are unable to treat all of their patients as they normally would and the state has activated care-rationing protocols.

On a visit to one Boise hospital on Thursday, an Idaho Capital Sun reported observed a “slow rolling” mass casualty event.

In an opinion piece published this week, retired Idaho Supreme Court Justice Jim Jones wrote that Biden’s COVID-19 employer rule “is reasonable and lawful.”

“That will also protect the customers of those businesses and give the public confidence that something effective is finally being done in many Republican-controlled states to bring the pandemic under control,” Jones wrote.

In their letter, Little, Wasden, Bedke and Winder write that the power to enforce vaccine policies should belong to the states, not the federal government. They also argue that the Department of Labor doesn’t have the legal authority to issue such a mandate.

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“We understand the significance of the COVID-19 pandemic, but we, as the leaders of the state of Idaho — in direct consultation with our constituents — are in the best position to determine the appropriate response within the borders of our state, not the federal government,” they wrote.

According to the state of Idaho’s coronavirus dashboard, 50.6% of Idahoans 12 and older are fully vaccinated for COVID-19. That’s below the national rate of 63.5% of people 12 and older.

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Clark Corbin
Clark Corbin

Clark Corbin has more than a decade of experience covering Idaho government and politics. He has covered every Idaho legislative session since 2011 gavel-to-gavel. Prior to joining the Idaho Capital Sun he reported for the Idaho Falls Post Register and Idaho Education News. His reporting in Idaho has helped uncover a multimillion-dollar investment scam and exposed inaccurate data that school districts submitted to the state.

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